Montgomery, Alabama- On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Iosif Florea, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison for his part in a “phishing” scam that impacted Alabama residents, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Jewell. Following his two-year and eight month prison sentence, he will be subject to three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $17,786.50 in restitution.
Florea previously pled guilty to charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft following his indictment in May of 2018 by a federal grand jury. Phishing scams use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization.
Evidence showed that Florea was involved in a scheme that occurred in March and June of 2015. During that time, text messages were sent to nearly 500,000 people in Alabama. The messages contained a link to a website that claimed to be that of the Alabama State Employees Credit Union (ASECU) and requested the recipients use the link to verify account information. The link actually took the recipients to a fraudulent website where they were prompted to enter sensitive account information, such as their names, debit card numbers, the card’s expiration date, the security code from the back of the card, and their personal identification numbers (PINs). This information was then loaded onto blank cards. During the two-month period, there were videos of Florea in Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, withdrawing money at ATMs using cards with stolen information from approximately 30 different accounts.
“It is important that the public be aware of these types of scams, and immediately report any suspicious account activity to their bank or credit union,” stated United States Attorney Franklin. “When a bank’s fraud department is alerted quickly, they can take actions to limit the losses to their customers and assist law enforcement to identify the thieves. The public should also know that my office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect their identities from these types of schemes.”
“I am pleased that Iosif Florea has been held to account and is being punished for his wrongdoing,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “This case is an excellent example of how teamwork among law enforcement agencies is vital to shutting down such scams, and it sends a strong message to cyber criminals who seek to target Alabamians that they will be tracked down and prosecuted. This case also serves as an important reminder that consumers must remain on guard when they receive messages that appear to be from trusted financial institutions. Always communicate directly with any bank or government agency by using verified contact information. Scammers can be very convincing with deceptive solicitations and links to fake web pages. Never respond directly to such texts, emails or phone calls. In this case, the vigilance of consumers and quick action by our investigators and other law enforcement helped to limit the potential for this criminal to inflict greater damage.”
“The criminal element in this country continues to evolve in the ways they divest our citizens of their property and earnings,” SAC Jewell stated. “The FBI pledges our support to our law enforcement partners in this continued fight and will remain committed to assisting in the prosecution of these criminals no matter what their method of theft may be.”
This case was investigated by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S Attorneys Brandon Bates and Denise Simpson.