MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Prosecutors call him an internet predator, and he's currently on the run. Iosif Florea is indicted on four counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft and was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court. But he didn't show, prompting the judge to issue a bench warrant for his arrest.
Florea reportedly contacted nearly a half million people in the River Region through text message, posing as Alabama State Employees Credit Union in an effort to gain sensitive information.
"He sent 400,000 texts to people who lived here in Alabama that would allow him to access their checking accounts at the credit union," said U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin.
The link in the text led to a fraudulent website and some ASE Credit Union patrons followed the prompts.
"They went to a fraudulent website and answered the questions about their personal information to include the usernames, passwords, security codes," Franklin explained.
Franklin said Florea used that information to create and print cards and then withdrew money at ATMs in Arizona, California, and other locations. The total amount stolen: $18,000.
Rarely, those who commit crimes over the internet are untraceable or in the United States.
"This is one of the instances where we found an internet predator in the United States and are able to prosecute him," Franklin said.
Florea was arrested in Arizona and made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. He was scheduled to be arraigned in Montgomery Tuesday on four counts. After he's in federal custody, the government will likely move to detail Florea until trial.
ASE Credit Union reminds members they do not address issues involving sensitive information in text messages.
"The ASE Credit Union text message fraud that was reported yesterday happened three years ago, in June of 2015, and Mr. Iosif Florea is just now being arraigned", stated Traci Kelley, ASE Director of Marketing. "ASE has and will continue to work with law enforcement to see that the individual responsible is brought to justice. ASE would like to remind members that we would never send out text messages directing a member to a website asking for security information. If you are suspicious of fraud, please contact ASE immediately. "