De Cătălin Tolontan, Adriana Oprea, Alexandra Nistoroiu, Delia Marinescu,

The criminal file at the Dolj County Court against the 7 heads of the human trafficking mob consists of 10 tomes, it is one meter high and it would have done more harm to the defendants by falling on their feet. 

DIICOT: The traffickers won over one million euros 

On July 3, 2013, the following persons were brought to trial under case 11491/63/2013: Ovidiu Bil Chiciu, alias ”Bălan”, Dumitru Chiciu, alias ”Paris”, Liviu Rădulean, alias ”Grațian”, Filip Sărdaru, Luigi Popescu, alias ”Luis”, Daniel Rădulean and Florin Izvoranu.

According to the Brigade for Combating Organized Crime from the Police Department in Craiova, who initiated the investigation on January 30, 2012, the mobsters dealt with ”recruiting from the Dolj, Vâlcea and Mehedinţi area several Roma families” they would smuggle to the USA ”in order to subsequently exploit them by forcing them to engage in illegal activities”. 

According to DIICOT, the traffickers had won over one million euros by illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.  

Migrants jump over the fence separating Mexico from the United States of America. The persons appearing in these photos have no connection to the characters within the article published by Libertatea. Photo: EPA 

According to US Border Patrol, the US border police force, the seven were part “of a transnational Romanian criminal group, involved in human trafficking and various forms of theft”. 

The Romanian network enrolled tens of members and had connections with South-American traffickers and Mexican border officers.

Two American agents in Romania 

On October 24, 2012, two officials, one from the FBI and one from Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement, came to Bucharest. They handed over several reports to the Romanian investigators. 

The Americans had also documented the connection between the address used by the Romanian citizens seeking asylum on the US territory (U.S. 7601 Franklin St., apt. 30, Buena Park, California) and Romanians Dan Sefcic and Emil Sărdaru, the latter being the California-based brother of one of the mob leaders in Craiova. 

FBI supplied a list with 785 names of men, women and children having illegally crossed the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders. 

A group of migrants attempt to cross the US from Tijuana, Mexic, to Baia California. This photo is illustrative. Source: EPA

During the judicial investigation, Filip Sărdaru, Ovidiu Bil Chiciu and Liviu Rădulean fully admitted committing the crimes. Dumitru Chiciu partially confessed the crimes. 

Not even a day in jail, for none of the 7 

On July 8, 2014, Dolj County Court exonerated all of them: 

  1. For trafficking, as the misdeed had been decriminalised (Government Emergency Ordinance 112/2001 was revoked starting November 2012, by Law 187/2012). 
  2. For constituting organised crime group as “the misdeed for which the criminal group was constituted is currently decriminalised”. 

The only charges were for fraud, a crime that was punished by 1 to 5 years in prison. The sentence was: 

  • Filip Sărdaru – a year in prison. 
  • Luigi Cristinel Popescu – two years in prison. 

DIICOT as well as the two defendants appealed. The Court ruled in favor of the defendants. 

On July 23, 2015, the Court of Appeal in Craiova decreased Filip Sărdarus sentence to 8 months in prison. 

Yet the pretrial detention of the mob leader had lasted 8 months on the dot, therefore the judges found that the “sentenced jail time had been covered”, therefore Sărdaru left the Court as a free man.

In the case of Luigi Cristinel Popescu, the judges ruled for the ”termination of the criminal trial against the defendant for committing fraud”. That because the defendants reconciled with their victims, they gave them back the money and signed notarized agreements. 

The Roma Democratic Civic Alliance intervened in Court for one of the leaders of the trafficking network: „He has taken part as a volunteer in a house rehabilitation process” 

But the story did not end there. As letting the 7 off the hook was just the first step in a long series of mind-blowing acquittals.  

The ruling in the traffickers criminal records show either that the investigators secretly joined a charity organization or that the actions taken against these interlops were struck by the perfect lightning of clemency. 

Record upon record, the files were ruffled by a mixture of operative bad luck for the cops, lack of inspiration from the investigators and legal changes that baffled the judges just about when they wanted to slam the gavel against the table. 

The clemency part is not quite overboard.  

During the trial of the 7 mob leaders, the Roma Democratic Civic Alliance filed a characterization of Dumitru Chiciu, alias ”Paris”.  

The Roma Democratic Civic Alliance shows that the man under trial for organised crime group is a prominent member of the community and that ”he took part as a volunteer in the house rehabilitation process for the needy families.

Migrants from Cuba are waiting to get to the United States from Matamoros, Mexico. The photo is illustrative. Photo: EPA 

Justice representatives proved equally understanding during the next case. After being declared innocent, the traffickers expanded their routes, via Cuba.  

He exposed the traffic towards the USA and the state claimed judicial expenses from him! 

One year after the first acquittal, Luigi Cristinel Popescu, alias ”Luis”, was put under investigation for another trafficking case. 

D. Alexandru, a citizen from the Merișani commune, Argeș county, filed a complaint for fraud and human trafficking against three men. Luis was one of them.  

DIICOT Pitești called for the closure of the file: ”The facts presented in the complaint indicate that the members of the family were not recruited and transported to the USA in order to be exploited.” 

Against this decision, D. Alexandru wrote a petition addressed to the head investigator of DIICOT Pitești, but, through the Ordinance no. 5/II/2017 from April 21, 2017, the latter ruled out the complaint.  

”The stated facts reveal moreover a litigation of a civil nature, because the injured party was aware from the very beginning about having to pay an amount of money to get to the USA, yet it was the injured party who gave up this plan due to unforeseen events and to the risk inflicted by the illegal crossing of the US border coming from Cuba, as this scenario involved traveling by ship across the ocean”, states the head investigator in his report. 

Alexandru D. wrote a complaint in the filing ordinance case, addressed to the Argeș County Court. 

On December 7, 2017, the Court ruled out the complaint as being unfounded and forced the petitioner to “pay judicial expenses amounting to 70 lei” to the state whom he had alerted about human trafficking. 

Should the investigators have assumed that Luis was part of an organised crime group, the Penal Code stipulates that, in order for the crime to be punishable, it is sufficient that the network plan the crime and it is not mandatory for them to climb the victim aboard in the boat crossing from Cuba to the US. But DIICOT thought otherwise.  

The bars owned by the traffickers are scattered all around the DIICOT Craiova headquarters 

In the third criminal case, the two other criminal gangs in Craiova, Miclescu and Poenaru, became part of the story. 

Investigations were initiated in 2010, starting from the gun traffic on the Bulgaria – Romania route. The investigators focused on the organised crime group that included Stazian Miclescu, alias ”Stazică”, Altafin Poenaru, Gabi Alin Poenaru, alias ”Patrian” and a Bulgarian citizen. 

Weapons confiscated by the Romanian Police Force from the traffickers. This photo is illustrative.

After four and a half years, DIICOT sent to trial five members of the trafficking networks, on account of constituting an organised crime group and of card theft. The defendants were: Stazian Miclescu, Toni Cristinel Cobârlău, Dragoș Rusu, Ovidiu Precob and Daniel Alexandru Steiner Ghițan. The story about the guns disappeared from the file. 

According to DIICOT, the defendants stole money from cards in the USA, while the operations were coordinated from Romania, where the equipment and the manpower came from.  

Sheltered by the blurred zone between countries and different legal systems, the traffickers benefit from a new section of the Penal Code stipulated as follows: ”You catch him, cause we cant!”. Each state argues that the case falls under another states jurisdiction. 

While governments are reluctant to cooperate, the parcels stuffed with black money and stolen gold get across the ocean.  

”Look at how the traffickers bars surround the DIICOT headquarters in Craiova”, says a judicial source, while pointing with the chin towards the DIICOT building, the classy bars surrounding it and the symptomatic bargaining power among them.   

The cyber investigation was undergone 4 years after! 

Within the card theft file, the investigators found several props of the “card-jackers” in the traffickers homes or in the yards of the defendants grandparents. Among other items, the policemen found ”10 pairs of black glasses endowed with cameras”. 

Although computers, mobile phones and other data supports were apprehended in 2011, it was only in February 2011 that the cyber investigation was initiated, as seen in Volume IV of the criminal investigation case no. 233D/P/2010. 

During the four years between seizure and cyber investigations, five Ministers for Justice were replaced, along with all the phone numbers of the persons under investigation.

The acquittal of all the defendants 

When in November 2015 the Miclescu clan was sent to trial, the judges crashed the investigators arguments.  

In February 2016, the preliminary hearing judge found that the charges were inconsistent and sent back the case to the prosecutors office. 

The file went back to DIICOT, it was perfected and brought back to trial and on November 10, 2017, Dolj County Court ruled the acquittal of all the defendants. 

According to the judges’ conclusions, the Poenaru brothers benefited from special treatment at DIICOT. The decision ruled in the Poenaru Altafin case was the severance of the charges, while for Poenaru Gabi Alin the case was filed. 

”Of all the persons identified and brought to the regional office of DIICOT Craiova, the only one giving a statement was suspect Poenaru Gabi Alin, a person who was caught being in the posession of computer systems that were seized. Yet the evidence held in this case up to the present regarding this suspect is not conclusive enough to regard this person as a danger to the public order or as far as his criminal activity is concerned”, stated DIICOT officers in their charge report.

Dolj County Court: „The only examined witness…” 

According to the Court, DIICOT presented poor evidence. If he would have read the charges backwards, the prosecutor would have had the same chance of being trusted, as shown in the Courts conclusions. 

  1. ”The prosecutor did not specify the means by which that amount of money was illegally raised, the evidence showing the money came from illegal sources and what did this amount of money represent”. 
  2. ”The prosecutor did not hear any of these persons regarding the period when they were in the USA, regarding the manner of crossing the border and the activity undergone on the US territory”. 
  3. ”The criminal investigation bodies do not take any step in obtaining evidence proving the manner of raising the money, limiting their statements to the accusation that the money derived most probably from skimming”.

The witnesses were not identified and examined, although the report refers to more than 100 persons involved in the case. The only witness was actually also a defendant, who did not give away too many details regarding any criminal activity
– the conclusions of the Dolj County Court, in the US card theft case, 233D/P/2011


DIICOT appealed. 

Filing another trafficking case comes next – this one was opened in Toronto 

The defendants were caught being in the possession of card skimming devices, like the ones illicitly installed on ATMs. One of the devices was in the possession of Daniel Alexandru Steiner Ghițan, who lived in the house of Poenaru Altafin.  

According to DIICOT, the defendants skimmed money from cards in the USA and the operations were coordinated from Romania. Photo: EPA 

The final sentence was reached on November 5, 2018, when Steiner Ghițan and Dragoș Stolojan (formerly known as Rusu) were the only ones to get a suspended one-year in prison sentence.  

Yet again, not even a single day in prison for the defendants, the same as in the previous stories. 

This is what happens, shows the Court of Appeal, when ”the presumption of innocence cannot be contested” because, as the judges say, evidence is insufficient. 

Years of investigation went by and a lot of prosecutors and tens of policemen played their part in the game. In the end, the only result was the group acquittal of the traffickers and their elevated concern regarding the piles of cash sent to Romania.

In the human, drugs and gun trafficking the major concern resides in how to handle the money and how to turn it into tangible pleasures without being caught by justice representatives, given that they are willing to look away – and nobody to be offended but yet again, seriously? So many lost solid cases?! 

According to the most recent information sent by the FBI to the Romanian authorities, during this period the illegal trafficking increased on the ”Canadian Pipe”, as the policemen call the networks at the US-Canada border. 

In Romania one of the regional departments of DIICOT is about to classify another migrant trafficking case over the US border, due to lack of evidence. It was precisely from Canada the complaint was sent from.  

(Translated by Karina Han)

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