Two Romanian nationals arrested for posing as ICE agents, hate crimes: Officials

Two Romanian nationals with apparent ties to Romanian organized criminal organizations were arrested and charged with hate crimes after allegedly posing as ICE agents and targeting Hispanic victims during a series of robberies, the Anaheim Police Department said.

According to the police department, on June 20, officers responded to two robberies and quickly discovered they were connected. During the robberies, the suspects approached the victims, identified themselves as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents, demanded cash from the victims, and then fled in a blue SUV, the police department said in a statement. 

Officials said the suspect threatened to have the victims deported if they refused to hand over money and debit cards. 

Anaheim Police arrested Laurentiu Baceanu and Vasile Alexandru, both 19, last week in Fullerton.

(L-R) Laurentiu Baceanu and Vasile Alexandru / Orange County District Attorney's Office

"We know that they are targeting Hispanic victims," said Anaheim PD Sgt. Jon McClintock. "They spoke Spanish during the robberies and that is very troubling. No police officer, no law enforcement official, is ever going to demand property from anybody."

According to court records, one of the suspects told Anaheim police he "targeted Hispanic males because they have cash, they are not smart, they do not fight, and they are scared due to their immigration status and would not call the police."

"Our prosecutor read that in open court as a way to argue no bail," said Kimberly Edds from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. "No one should have to feel afraid of anyone because of their ethnicity or their perceived immigration status."

In addition to the hate crime charges, Alexandru and Baceanu have also been charged with felony kidnapping, false imprisonment, and robbery in Contra Costa County, and are suspected of similar crimes in Santa Clara County, and possibly in Washington and New York. Police also suspect there are other victims in Southern California. Anyone with information is urged to contact police.

They each face a maximum sentence of 29 years in state prison if convicted on all counts. 

"Orange County has been the target of Romanian national organized crime for a while," said Edds. "[These suspects] were preying on people specifically because of their ethnicity and immigration status."