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An international pair was arrested in Hollis for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars by using retrofitted Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards, the Queens district attorney said.
Daniel Gheorghe and Ionel Cristian Popa, both 33 and Romanian nationals, were arraigned last Thursday in a 70-count indictment on several charges, including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud, Queens DA Richard Brown said.
The men, who were in the United States on journalism visas, were observed allegedly stealing more than $17,000 from a Chase branch on Hillside Avenue and 205th Street in March with the gift cards, according to the DA.
“Instead of going on a run for coffee and doughnuts with their gift cards, the defendants are instead accused of going to the bank and using its ATMs as their personal slot machines, cashing out large sums of money with each use of their ‘doctored’ Dunkin’ Donut gift cards,” he said in a statement.
The gift cards, which are sold and used at the bakery chain’s stores, are marked with a 16-digit vendor account number and coded with information related to how much money is on the card, according to the Brown.
Gheorghe and Popa were able to re-encode the cards with stolen bank account information from institutions such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, Maestro, Nuvision Federal Credit Unit and US Bank National Association, according to Brown.
On March 31, officers in a vestibule inside the Hollis bank saw the two rapidly making multiple, unauthorized transactions with the Dunkin’ Donuts cards and shoving $20 bills into their pockets, the DA said.
JPMorgan Chase asked the DA’s office to investigate and in March both suspects were apprehended by the police, according to Brown. Officers from the 107th Precinct found $17,703 in stolen funds and 66 Dunkin’ Donut gift cards from Gheorghe and Popa’s possessions and cars, the DA said.
The cards that were confiscated by the authorities had vendor account numbers that did not match up to the Dunkin’ Donuts cards, Brown said.
A Queens Supreme Court judge ordered the suspects to be held on $150,000 bail each and asked them return to court Aug. 23, the DA said.
If convicted on all their charges, they face multiple seven-year sentences, according to the DA.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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