On July 14th, 2023

Romanian National Pleads Guilty to $5 Million Covid Relief Fraud California Employment Development Department Investigative Division assisted with this investigation

“There were true heroes as this pandemic began, families who were suffering, and then there were unscrupulous, uncaring individuals who couldn’t contain their greed and selfishness and fraudulently sought financial assistance meant to help those who suddenly found themselves in need.  Those who stole from these state and federal assistance programs are being identified, prosecuted and sentenced to prison.  Thank you to the law enforcement investigators who continue to investigate these crimes.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona

SAN DIEGO – On July 11, 2023, Constantin Sandu, 33, of Romania pleaded guilty in federal court, admitting that he masterminded a scheme to steal more than $5 million in California unemployment insurance benefits intended to help workers impacted by the pandemic.

According to his plea agreement, Sandu conspired with an uncharged co-conspirator identified as “D.C.” plus 213 unnamed Romanian co-conspirators across California and in Romania to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in California unemployment insurance benefits by fabricating documents, creating fictitious accounts and businesses, and filing bogus claims with California’s Employment Development Department, which administers the state’s unemployment benefits. Sandu wired $16,000 of proceeds from the fraud to Romania to renovate his house.

In a forfeiture addendum, Sandu agreed to forfeit $214,950 of proceeds that he personally received from the offenses.

The plea agreement said that beginning in July 2020 and continuing until late summer of 2022, Sandu and hundreds of unnamed co-conspirators, including the one identified as D.C., learned and developed a process to receive the most benefits possible by using fraudulent identifications, falsified utility bills, falsified earnings statements, falsified W2s, fraudulent health insurance cards and non-existent companies. Additionally, Sandu learned to “backdate” or modify the EDD applications with an earlier unemployment start date to generate even bigger pay days.

Co-conspirators across California would share information, knowledge and resources with Sandu, for Sandu to file claims for regular unemployment insurance and expanded pandemic unemployment insurance benefits from California EDD. Co-conspirators communicated with Sandu via Facebook or other electronic means or met with him in person to provide their Personal Identifying Information, known as PII.

According to the California Franchise Tax Board, none of the companies named in the various W2s submitted for conspirators’ EDD applications was real. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, none of the member identification numbers submitted for conspirators’ EDD applications was real.

In total, Sandu conspired with D.C. and unnamed co-conspirators to fraudulently obtain no less than $5,207,687 in California unemployment insurance benefits.

Sandu is scheduled to be sentenced on October 16, 2023, at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.


Federal Bureau of Investigation

San Diego Police Department Economic Crimes Unit

Internal Revenue Service

California Employment Development Department Investigative Division

Homeland Security Investigations

Department of Labor Office of Investigator General


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