More than 120 Twin Cities EBT users fell victim to card skimmers, charges say

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Ramsey County prosecutors have filed charges against two men who allegedly used card skimmers to drain thousands of dollars from state-issued EBT accounts across the Twin Cities metro area.

Nationwide arrest warrants have been issued for George Dimuleasa, 33, and Iulian Irimiea, 43, who were charged in Ramsey County District Court this week with identity theft, theft by swindle and wrongfully obtaining assistance.

The charges allege that Dimuleasa and Irimiea have been involved in installing card skimmers at stores, collecting account information, replicating EBT card numbers onto new cards and then withdrawing cash benefits from ATMs.

Dimuleasa, who is believed to be from Spain, and Irimiea, from Romania, “travel across the United States committing EBT theft related crimes,” charges say.

“Due to the nature of the charges and lack of ties to the United States, it is not believed that either suspect would appear for court upon issuance of a summons,” the charges say.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services issues funds on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards for residents and families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and cash assistance. The cards are used at approved stores and online retailers.

The agency issued an alert to EBT users last month, saying it has “received an uptick in reports of card skimming.” Tips were given on how EBT users can go about protecting their accounts.

Identified on surveillance

According to the charges, more than 120 people have fallen victim to EBT identity theft across the metro area since November.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s financial crimes unit is the central agency managing the EBT skimming complaints reported to law enforcement officials across the metro.

The charges say that investigators used surveillance photos and video from businesses where the stolen EBT cards were used to determine that Dimuleasa and Irimiea “are responsible for the overwhelming majority” of the EBT theft complaints.

Investigators say Dimuleasa and Irimiea can be “positively linked” to seven EBT identity thefts in the Twin Cities metro area since early November, totaling $4,185.50. The thefts range from $143.50 taken from an ATM at a Walgreens store in Arden Hills to $950.50 at a Walgreens in St. Anthony. The two men are also responsible for EBT thefts at a Walgreens in Burnsville and three more at a Walgreens in St. Louis Park, charges allege.

One store surveillance camera caught a suspect leaving in a 2023 Chevrolet SUV with Florida license plates. Investigators learned the SUV had been rented through SIXT Rent a Car at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Nov. 28 and returned there six days later.

As part of the rental agreement, SIXT takes photos of renters and their identification. Photographs of the renter match Irimiea, charges say.

This week, investigators learned from SIXT that Irimiea had rented a vehicle in Los Angeles on Dec. 19. Photos of a second renter identify Dimuleasa, charges say.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services said Friday in a statement that stolen benefits are being reimbursed in accordance with applicable federal laws once it’s been confirmed the funds were lost due to theft.

“DHS understands the difficulties EBT users are experiencing as a result of a nationwide increase in benefit theft,” the statement said. “We are investigating all reports of benefit theft so stolen funds can be reimbursed as quickly as possible.”

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