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Federal Investigators May Take Over Identity Theft Case

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to filed charges against a Sacramento man accused in a debit card theft ring. Emanuel Moldoveanu, 34, of Sacramento was in court in Auburn this morning, but his hearing was continued while federal authorities look at his case.

Moldoveanu (shown above on left) was arrested late last month along with 32-year-old Claudio Hotea (shown above on right) of Riverside. The two are suspected in a widespread identity theft ring that may affect hundreds of victims in the Central Valley. Because the case encompasses a number of Northern California counties and involves possible violation of federal law, federal investigators may take it over.

Moldoveanu posted $200,000 bail. His family insists he is innocent. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," his wife said this morning.

Placer County detectives said Hotea and Moldoveanu stole debit card data from customers at bank automated teller machines and gas stations in Yuba and Placer counties using a sophisticated combination of one-way mirrors, miniature cameras, and magnetic strip readers. The pair then created counterfeit cards and withdrew money from the victims' accounts, detectives said.

Many of those fraudulent transactions were traced to ATMs at Thunder Valley Casino. Detectives reviewed casino security tapes to help identify the suspects.

The two accused men were carrying five fraudulent cards when they were arrested, the sheriff's department said.

Meanwhile, investigators said more than 100 victims throughout California have so far been identified with losses already reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars. More are expected to surface as the investigation continues.

Both Hotea and Moldoveanu were born in Romania. Moldoveanu played professional soccer in Romania before moving to Sacramento six years ago, his lawyer said. He works in construction and has no criminal history. His lawyer claims Moldoveanu was arrested because of his association with Hotea and that he was not directly involved in any criminal activity.

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