Authorities have arrested two men for stealing from an elderly woman in a case of “bank jugging.”
According to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department release, a 79-year-old woman drove to a bank on Bolsa Chica Street in Huntington Beach around 11 a.m. on Sept. 19.
The woman withdrew $50,000 in cash and placed the money into an envelope, returned to her car and left the bank.
Upon returning to her home about an hour later, she was approached by a suspect who asked for directions to a local hospital, OCSD said.
“While the victim was distracted, a second male suspect reached through her right rear window and stole the envelope from her purse,” the Sheriff’s Department release said.
Investigators launched an investigation, and after pursuing multiple leads, they arrested 42-year-old Ionut Marius Andrei and 38-year-old Stefan Romero Oprea, both of Riverside. Both were booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of felony grand theft, conspiracy to commit a crime and theft of an elderly person.
Footage released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department captures one of the incidents Andrei and Oprea are said to have been involved in.
In one video, one of the two men exits his vehicle and approaches the driver’s side of the victim’s truck.
While one man distracts the victim, the other is seen reaching in through the back window to grab the recently withdrawn cash.
Additional footage released by OCSD shows one suspect running away from the victim’s residence as his accomplice quickly approaches him in a silver sedan, picks him up and drives away.
Orange County authorities are also linking Andrei and Oprea to another case of “bank jugging” where an elderly victim was robbed, authorities said.
In that incident, the two men approached a 72-year-old man who had just withdrawn over $5,000 from a bank and returned home.
“The victim stated that he was approached in his garage by a male who asked for directions to a hospital,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said. “After the suspect had left, the victim returned to his car to retrieve the money from the center console, and it was gone.”
This type of crime has been dubbed “bank jugging” by authorities. The suspect or suspects pay close attention to customers at a bank – including ATM users – to observe if the customer withdrew cash.
Potential victims are then followed after they leave the bank, and the suspect or suspects will either confront and distract them at a secondary location or attempt to break into their car to steal the money if it is left parked and unattended.
Authorities in Fontana warned SoCal residents of the rise in “bank jugging” in August, referencing a case where a man was followed from a Chase Bank to a Walgreens on July 22. While he was inside the pharmacy, a suspect who had followed him from the bank broke into his car and stole over $1,000 in recently withdrawn cash.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department recommends taking these steps to avoid becoming a “bank jugging” victim:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Limit distractions, especially cell phones
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, if possible
- Seek alternative ways to transfer funds
Those who feel as if they are being followed from a financial institution are urged to call 911 immediately.
Video of the robbery can be viewed in the video player above.