ST. LOUIS – Three foreign nationals from Romania appeared in federal court in St. Louis and admitted to running a nationwide “short-change fraud” scheme.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Loredana Angel, 34, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and illegal reentry of an alien. Daniel Rostas, 30, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the same charges. Legenda Rostas, 28, pleaded guilty on March 1 to the same charges.

According to court documents, the Rostas are married, and Angel is Legenda’s sister.

The trio was arrested in Arnold, Missouri, on Oct. 14, 2022, after local law enforcement was notified by a Home Depot loss prevention officer. Arnold authorities made contact with the trio, who provided false names and fake IDs to police.

Police searched their vehicle and found multiple license plates, as well as cash, gift cards, and Western Union receipts.

The defendants admitted in court committing sleight of hand in Target stores across the country while purchasing Visa gift cards.

When buying the gift cards, the defendants told the court they would display the full purchase price in cash, but then fold over a portion of the bills and keep that while hand the rest to store employees. The trio would look for younger or inexperienced employees to run the scam on.

Prosecutors said the defendants would wire the money they made to family in Romania.

According to her plea agreement, Legenda Rostas acquired $224,666 via fraud from Target stores. Meanwhile, Daniel Rostas admitted wiring $62,534 to Romania and elsewhere. Angel told the court her fraud totaled $83,865.

The three defendants also admitted to being in the country illegally. Legenda Rostas was previously removed on Dec. 28, 2020; Daniel Rostas was removed on Nov. 13, 2019, and Oct. 14, 2020; and Angel was removed on June 24, 2019.

As part of their plea deals, they’ve agreed to forfeit a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, $10,567 in cash, and $11,300 in prepaid Visa gift cards.