Members of ‘Romanian Gypsy Ring’ Busted in Clarion Quick Change Scam

quick-change-mugsMONROE TOWNSHIP, Pa. (EYT) – Three members of what police are calling a “Romanian Gypsy Ring” have been charged in connection with a “quick change” scam at Walmart and Carmike Cinemas in Monroe Township, Clarion County.

According to a criminal complaint filed February 27, 2017, by Clarion-based State Police Trooper Mesing, the following individuals are facing charges in the case:

Ancuta Rostas, 35:

  • Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 1
  • Conspiracy – Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 1 (2 counts)

Costica Muntean, 34:

  • Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 2 (2 counts)
  • Conspiracy – Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 2

Lina Rostas, 27:

  • Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 2 (2 counts)
  • Conspiracy – Theft By Deception-False Impression, Misdemeanor 2

Court Documents Detail Incidents

The criminal complaint – filed at Magisterial District Judge Timothy P. Schill’s office – details multiple incidents in which the defendants allegedly engaged in “quick change” scams.

January 29 Incident

On January 29, 2017, Costica Muntean arrived at Clarion Walmart and purchased an inexpensive item. Muntean handed the cashier $400 in $50 bills and asked for change. Using a “quick change” scheme, Muntean allegedly scammed the cashier out of $160.

February 11 Incident

On February 11, 2017, Ancuta and Lina Rostas entered Clarion Walmart and purchased a package of M & M’s. Before the cashier closed the cash register, Ancuta Rostas handed her (7) $100 bills and asked for change. The cashier complied and handed Ancuta Rostas $700 in $20 bills. Ancuta Rostas then handed the money back to the cashier and asked if she could have $10 bills instead. The cashier told Ancuta Rostas that she did not have enough $10 bills in her drawer to make the exchange. Ancuta Rostas then informed the cashier that she did not want the $20 bills and gave them back in exchange for the original $700. However, as she handed the money to the cashier, Ancuta Rostas “folded” several bills into her hand, keeping $340.

The cashier told Ancuta Rostas that the service desk might be able to provide change. Rostas picked up her (7) $100 bills and asked for change at the service desk. The service desk cashier began to give Ancuta Rostas the requested change; however, she quickly became suspicious and stopped the transaction. Ancuta and Lina Rostas left the store and fled in a small silver sedan.

February 12 Incidents

On February 12, 2017, Costica Muntean, Ancuta Rostas, and Lina Rostas arrived at Clarion Walmart. Muntean purchased an inexpensive item and then allegedly utilized a “quick change” scheme to scam the cashier out of $180.

Ancuta Rostas also attempted to execute the scam but was denied when the cashier became suspicious.

Ancuta and Lina Rostas then went to Carmike Cinemas at the Clarion Mall and successfully obtained $300 using the scam.

Warrants Issued

Due to the defendants being part of a “Romanian Gypsy Ring,” police were unable to obtain their physical addresses. Arrest warrants were subsequently issued by Judge Schill.

They are awaiting preliminary hearings.

Quick Change Scams

According to CrimeStoppers, a quick change scam is when an individual targets inexperienced cashiers by paying for small priced items with a large bill ($50).

Before the cashier gives the change back, the suspect engages the cashier in a speedy series of money exchanges thereby confusing the cashier.

In the confusion, the suspect tells the cashier how much money to give back thus short-changing the cashier.

In some instances, suspect(s) work in teams of two where one of the suspects handle the money exchange while the second suspect acts as a distraction to confuse the cashier even more. Detectives say one way to avoid being a victim of the scam is to complete the transaction for the purchase then close the cash register.

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