MINNEAPOLIS -- Prosecutors allege a woman belonging to a Romanian organized crime group stole thousands of dollars from Twin Cities retailers using a sleight of hand scheme.
Baronita Rostas, 24, is charged with one count of theft by swindle, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
A criminal complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office alleges Rostas swindled stores in Eagan, Roseville, Albertville, Maple Grove, St. Louis Park, Woodbury, and Richfield, causing a total loss of $6,280 to the retailers between March and July of this year.
Rostas' alleged scheme, as described in the criminal complaint, was to bring merchandise to the cashier to purchase, then hand over multiple stacks of $20. She would then ask to recount the bills, ask the cashier for the total and discreetly remove bills from the stack while the cashier was checking the register screen. After completing the transaction, Rostas allegedly walked away having paid less than the total and receiving change from the cashier. She also would later return the merchandise at a different store, prosecutors allege.
The criminal complaint states Rostas performed this scheme across the country.
"This is a complex case, involving several agencies and a significant amount of work," Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said. "This sort of high-volume, organized fraud has a significant impact on businesses and their employees, and ultimately impacts all of us through higher prices."
She was arrested Friday at a hotel in St. Louis Park where she had been staying with her husband. Authorities found "large amounts of cash and extensive retail merchandise, receipt, and gift cards" in her car, the complaint states.
Prosecutors said she is "transient and is a significant flight risk."
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Fraud Bureau led the investigation. Rostas was identified as a Romanian mob member by investigators from TJX Companies, which owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other retail stores.
for more features.