BULLETIN: FBI Issues Wanted Posters, INTERPOL Issues Red Notices For Alleged International Cybercriminals Who Targeted Americans In Scam That Duped Big-Ticket Shoppers

BULLETIN: The FBI has issued Wanted posters and INTERPOL has issued Red Notices for at least five alleged cybercriminals who targeted Americans and websites such as eBay, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and CycleTrader.com in a scheme that netted millions of dollars.

Victims were in the marketplaces for high-ticket items such as cars, boats and motorcycles, and the scammers and coconspirators posed as sellers and created fake websites to dupe victims into believing they were doing business with real merchants. The products, however, “did not actually exist,” the FBI and federal prosecutors said.

Phony invoices also were part of the scheme, which also allegedly used “high-quality fake passports to be used as identification by co-conspirators in the United States.”

“After the ‘sellers’ reached an agreement with the victim buyers, they would often e-mail them invoices purporting to be from Amazon Payments, PayPal, or other online payment services, with instructions to transfer the money to the American bank accounts used by the defendants,” the prosecution team said.

“Today, we have unsealed charges—and issued wanted posters and Interpol red notices—for a band of dangerous cyber criminals who are alleged to have stolen millions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers around the globe,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“As described in the indictment, the leader of this band of thieves openly proclaimed that he is beyond the reach of the U.S. criminal justice system,” Raman said. “But with the help of our international partners, we will track down and capture every alleged member of this criminal syndicate, no matter where they are hiding.”

Among those wanted are Nicolae Popescu. the alleged ringleader described by the FBI as a “Romania fugitive.”

Also wanted are “Romanian nationals Daniel Alexe (who may also go by the name ‘Alexe Daniel’), Dmitru Daniel Bosogioiu, Ovidiu Cristea, and Dragomir Razvan, and a defendant who goes by the names ‘George Skyper’ and ‘Tudor Barbu Lautaru,'” the FBI and prosecutors said.

“Using forged documents and phony websites, for years Popescu and his criminal syndicate reached across the ocean to pick the pockets of hard working Americans looking to purchase cars,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York. “They thought their distance would insulate them from law enforcement scrutiny. They were wrong.”

Six scamming colleagues of the wanted men already have been caught, the FBI said.

From a statement by the FBI and federal prosecutors (italics added):

As alleged in the complaint and subsequent indictment, the defendants participated in a long-term conspiracy to saturate Internet marketplace websites including eBay, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, and CycleTrader.com with detailed advertisements for cars, motorcycles, boats, and other high-value items—generally priced in the $10,000 to $45,000 range—that did not actually exist. The defendants employed co-conspirators who corresponded with the victim buyers by e-mail, sending fraudulent certificates of title and other information designed to lure the victims into parting with their money. The defendants allegedly even pretended to sell cars from non-existent auto dealerships in the United States and created phony websites for these fictitious dealerships. As part of the scheme, the defendants produced and used high-quality fake passports to be used as identification by co-conspirators in the United States, including Razvan (who previously resided in California), to open American bank accounts. After the “sellers” reached an agreement with the victim buyers, they would often e-mail them invoices purporting to be from Amazon Payments, PayPal, or other online payment services, with instructions to transfer the money to the American bank accounts used by the defendants. The defendants and their co-conspirators allegedly used counterfeit service marks in designing the invoices so that they would appear identical to communications from legitimate payment services. The illicit proceeds were then withdrawn from the U.S. bank accounts and sent to the defendants in Europe by wire transfer and other methods.

The complaint and indictment describe the extent to which Popescu, in particular, led the conspiracy. Among other things, Popescu coordinated the roles of the various participants in the scheme—he hired and fired passport makers based on the quality of the fake passports they produced, supervised co-conspirators who were responsible for placing the fraudulent ads and corresponding with the victims, and ensured that the illicit proceeds transferred to the U.S. bank accounts were quickly collected and transferred to himself and others acting on his behalf in Europe. Popescu also allegedly directed Cristea to obtain and transfer luxury watches purchased using the illegal proceeds of the scheme, including three Audemars Piguet watches with a combined retail value of over $140,000, to his associates in Europe. It is estimated that the defendants earned over $3 million from the fraudulent scheme.

Screen Shots Of Wanted Posters

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