The U.S. Attorney said Wednesday it clamped down on an international cyber crime ring responsible for pilfering millions of dollars from consumers on U.S.-based Internet marketplace Web sites.
In cooperation with international law enforcement agencies, seven defendants were taken into custody in Romania, the Czech Republic, the U.K. and Canada, after officials got wind of the scheme that included saturating Internet sites such as eBay, Autotrader.com and Cycletrader.com with fake listings for merchandise.
On those sites, the defendants Emil Butoi, Aurel Cojocaru, Nicolae Ghebosila, Cristea Mircea, Ion Pieptea and Nicolae Simion posted detailed advertisements for Audemars Piguet and Cartier watches, cars, motorcycles, boats and other highly valued goods generally priced in the $10,000 to $45,000 range.
Unbeknownst to the buyers, the merchandise did not exist. The so-called sellers, who worked in collusion with the defendants, corresponded with the buyers via e-mail, sending fake certificates of title and other information designed to lure victims into making a purchase.
As alleged in the complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of New York, after the fake sellers reached an agreement with the buyers, they would often e-mail them fraudulent invoices purporting to be from online payment services such as Amazon Payments or PayPal. It’s estimated that the defendants earned more than $3 million from the scheme.
Each defendant is charged with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, they will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count.
“As alleged, the defendants ran a sophisticated fraud scheme that used the Internet to reach across the globe and into the homes of unsuspecting Americans. They utilized high-tech counterfeiting techniques to create an aura of online legitimacy,” said U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch. “This virtual con game nevertheless cost Americans real money. Thanks to our international partnerships, even the most sophisticated and tech-savvy criminal organizations are not beyond the reach of law enforcement. No matter how complex the scheme, we will spare no effort in protecting American consumers from fraud on the Internet.”