A Romanian Mafia Boss Allegedly Stole Millions From Cancun Tourists

Mihai Alexandru Preda had card-cloning devices installed in cash machines around the region, and allegedly made millions of dollars stealing from tourists.
Mexican marines patrol the beach of Playacar, near Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo State, on February 14, 2019. Photo: DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images.

A Romanian mafia boss who allegedly stole millions of dollars from rigged cash machines in the Mexican tourist beach of Cancun was just extradited from Poland to Mexico.

Mihai Alexandru Preda is said to be a leader of the Romanian mafia as well as the "Riviera Maya Gang,” which has reportedly been operating in top tourist resorts such as Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen since 2016, according to Mexican officials


Preda had installed over 100 card-cloning devices in ATMs around the region, from where he made over $3 million dollars, according to a press release by Mexican General Attorney’s Office. 

The gang allegedly changed the card slots and keyboards of the ATMs to illegally obtain information from bank cards, clone them, and withdraw money from accounts. The Mexican government claims his organization made more than three million dollars from the scheme.    

“This criminal organization, led by Mihai ‘A’., illegally obtained cash from ATMs in Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Mexico City, Estado de México and Hidalgo for more than 70 million pesos [nearly $4 million],” authorities said

Preda was arrested in July 2022 while living in Poland after an arrest warrant issued by the Mexican government. But it wasn’t until this week that he was sent to Mexico to face charges. 

Mexican authorities also arrested his collaborator Florian Tudor, known as ‘El Tiburón (“the shark” in Spanish), in May 2021 on organized crime, extortion and homicide charges.

Originally from Craiova, Romania, Tudor moved to Quintana Roo with several close family members in 2014. With the help of his step-brother, Adrian Enachescu, Tudor opened a Delaware-based business with offices in New York and San Francisco, which were allegedly used to transfer money from illegal operations in Romania to Mexico, according to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Popular beaches like Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintan Roo have seen insecurity spike in recent years. At least 12 different countries are represented in the region, including the Russian and Romanian mafia, as well as Italian, Mexican and Colombian organizations, according to an investigation by Interpol. 

Authorities have also identified four Mexican drug cartels operating in the greater Cancun area—the Sinaloa Cartel, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG for its acronym in Spanish), the Gulf Cartel and a smaller organization known as Grupo Regional, a cartel formed of former Zetas cartel members and local street gangs. 

The drug market created by foreign visitors with money to spend has created new profits and rivalries in tourist resorts along Mexico’s coasts. Two Canadians were shot dead at a top-ranked hotel in Playa del Carmen in 2022, sparking fear amongst tourists and highlighting the drug-related violence in the region.