It’s a small town in southeastern Romania.
But Tandarei has a reputation that extends much farther, due to child trafficking and other cross-border crime.
Known as ‘the Beverly Hills for Romanian gangsters’ thanks to luxury mansions which line the streets of the poor town, it’s now become the latest hotspot for the novel coronavirus outbreak after 800 seasonal workers and their families returned from countries such as Italy and Spain in recent weeks and didn’t respect quarantine rules.
After four deaths in the impoverished town of 12,000, special troops were dispatched to the town on Friday which is now being supervised by the Army and placed under a strict lockdown.
The measures were deemed necessary as residents refused to comply with nationwide military rules which restrict people’s movements and are designed to halt the spread of the disease.
Many residents returned to the town after months abroad, fleeing the coronavirus pandemic which gripped Western Europe first.
Once they were back home, there were reports of parties, barbecues and get-togethers in the small town.
And so, an outbreak occurred in the community where many Roma live, leading to infections and deaths.
Tandarei gained international notoriety more than a decade ago after a purported network of ringleaders allegedly forced more than 160 underage Roma via debt bondage to beg and steal for them across Europe, including in Britain.
A Europol investigation, which started in 2008 and involved more than 300 Romanian and British police personnel, culminated in 2010 with the arrest of scores of suspects.
Searches of 30 addresses during raids in the town found firearms, jewelry, large amounts of cash, and powers of attorney authorizing members of the network to take the children out of Romania.
The suspects were members of the Roma community and 120 were convicted in Britain of child trafficking, child neglect, child exploitation, money laundering, benefit fraud, and a range of other crimes, according to the BBC.
But a lower court in Romania, however, acquitted the 25 alleged ringleaders in December 2019, citing insufficient evidence. The ruling was criticized by rights groups.
Tonita Manea, the prefect of the county of Ialomita where Tandarei is located, said there were 45 cases of coronavirus in the county, with 29-30 of them in Tandarei alone.
„They come and go and leave the town and visit the surrounding areas,” he told Mediafax news agency.
Many apparently didn’t respect 14-day quarantine rules and passed on the highly contagious virus.
A 39 year-old man, without underlying health conditions died on March 26, and is the youngest of the 118 people who have died so far in Romania from the virus.
Two other people also died in the town, Neither of them had traveled abroad or come into contact with someone with the virus, the Strategic Communication Group said.
Ialomita county has 208 people in institutionalized quarantine, and a further 2,429 in self-isolation.