An ongoing Internet fraud scheme conducted by several networks of organized cyber criminals in Romania and the United States has been disrupted as a result of a series of law enforcement actions coordinated since 2010 between Romanian and U.S. law enforcement, including numerous arrests and searches that took place yesterday in Romania.
More than 100 individuals have been arrested and charged in Romania and judicial districts in the United States as a result of close cooperation between the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police, Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Infractions of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), the General Directorate of Jandarmeria in Romania (GIJR) and the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Missouri.
Yesterday, Romania law enforcement executed 117 searches targeting more than 100 individuals allegedly involved in the fraudulent scheme involving fake sales of merchandise through the Internet. Romanian law enforcement targeted individuals organizing and perpetrating this fraud from Romania.
According to U.S. court documents, in many of the cases, conspirators located in Romania would post items for sale such as cars, motorcycles and boats on Internet auction and online websites. They would instruct victims located in the United States and elsewhere who wanted to buy those items to wire transfer the purchase money to a fictitious name they claimed to be an employee of an escrow company.
Once the victim wired the funds, the co-conspirators in Romania would text information about the wire transfer to co-conspirators in the United States known as “arrows” to enable them to retrieve the wired funds. They would also provide the arrows with instructions as to where to send the funds after retrieval.
The arrows in the United States would go to money transmitter service counters such as Western Union or MoneyGram International, provide false documents including passports and drivers’ licenses in the name of the recipient of the wire transfer, and obtain the funds. They would subsequently wire the funds overseas, typically to individuals in Romania, minus a percentage kept for their commissions.
In some cases, co-conspirators in Romania also directed arrows to provide bank accounts in the United States where larger amounts of funds could be wired by victims of the fraud. The victims would not receive the items they believed they were purchasing.
The Romania investigation is being conducted in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations in the United States that also have been targeting this criminal activity. Since May 2010, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida have arrested and prosecuted numerous individuals from Romania, Moldova and the United States allegedly involved in this fraud scheme.
Vadim Gherghelejiu, 29, of Moldova; Anatolie Bisericanu, 25, of Moldova; Jairo Osorno, 22, of Surfside, Fla.; Jason Eibinder, 22, of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.; and Ciprian Jdera, 25, of Romania, have been convicted in the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
A 21-count indictment returned in Miami on Feb. 22, 2011 charged Pedro Pulido, 41, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Ivan Boris Barkovic, 19, of Sunny Isles Beach; Beand Dorsainville, 20, of North Miami Beach, Fla.; Sergiu Petrov, aka “Serogia,” 27, of Moldova; Oleg Virlan, 32, of Moldova; Marian Cristea, 22, of Romania; and Andrian Olarita, 26, of Moldova, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and substantive counts of wire fraud. Pulido, Barkovic, Dorsainville and Olarita have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Petrov, Virlan and Cristea remain at large and are considered fugitives.
On July 8, 2011, Adrian Culda, 37, of Romania, was arrested and subsequently charged in a complaint filed in Miami with conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of this alleged cyber crime activity. Tiberiu Zachiteanu, 19, of Romania, was also charged in the same complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was arrested on July 12, 2011.
An investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania led to the arrests of seven defendants, including one individual in Pittsburgh, three individuals in the Eastern District of Missouri, two individuals in Fort Bend County, Texas, and one individual in Kentucky. Marion Potcovaru, 30, of Romania, pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2011, to wire fraud related charges in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
In St. Louis, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Augustin Prundurelu, 32, and Georgiana Andrei, 25, both of Romania, with forgery and passport fraud. Both defendants pleaded guilty and each were sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $18,365. In addition, Sorin Mihai Madaian, 22, of Romania, pleaded guilty on May 23, 2011, in the Eastern District of Missouri to passport fraud charges. Victor Angelescu, 28, of Romania, was charged by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for the 27th Judicial Circuit of Kentucky with related wire fraud charges.
In Fort Bend County, Texas, Klara Mirabela Rusu, 24, and Eduard Sorin Neacsu, 36, were arrested on June 3, 2011, by officers from the Houston Police Department and charged by Fort Bend and Harris County authorities with money laundering and making false statements to obtain property. Rusu was indicted by a Fort Bend County grand jury on July 11, 2011, and charged with the felony offenses of money laundering and making a false statement. Neacsu’s grand jury date is pending due to possible additional charges. Both individuals are currently detained.
According to court documents, detectives observed Rusu and Neacsu enter a WalMart store, where Rusu and Neacsu presented a MoneyGram voucher and false identifications to a store clerk. Rusu and Neascu received $2,890 through Western Union and Money Gram from a victim in another state who had wired the money in response to an Internet advertisement for merchandise, which the victim never received. Rusu and Neacsu were later arrested and a search of their room produced a large amount of U.S. currency, computers, printers, plastic for manufacturing false identifications, an exacto knife, multiple mobile phones and false identifications with Neacsu’s picture.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Internet fraud scheme has resulted in an estimated loss of more than $10 million from victims, including those in the United States. The full loss amount and identification of additional victims is ongoing.
Over the last 10 years, U.S. law enforcement authorities have strengthened ties with Romanian law enforcement authorities to address the rising threats posed by Romanian-based organized cyber criminal networks. To date, hundreds of defendants have been arrested and charged in the United States, Romania, and other countries as a result of this cooperation.
The Department of Justice International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) has provided support and assistance to these ongoing investigations. IOC-2 partners with various law enforcement agencies to combine data and produce actionable leads for investigators and prosecutors working nationwide to combat international organized crime. IOC-2 also coordinates the resulting multi-jurisdictional investigations and prosecutions with its member agencies, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and foreign law enforcement authorities.
The ongoing investigations are being led by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement is participating in the investigation related to the Pittsburgh cases. The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Missouri, with support from CCIPS.
Local law enforcement assisting in these prosecutions include the Medina County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office; the London, Ky., Police Department; Memphis, Tenn., Airport Police; the Kirkwood, Mo., Police Department; the Fort Bend and Harris County, Texas, District Attorneys’ Offices; the Houston Police Department; the Hallandale Beach, Fla., Police Department; the Pembroke Pines Police Department; the Miami Gardens Police Department; the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department; the North Miami Beach Police Department and the Davie, Fla., Police Department.
Also assisting law enforcement were the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Wal-Mart Stores, Western Union, MoneyGram International, the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) and Publix Grocery Stores.
Victims of Internet crime are encouraged to report evidence of fraudulent activity to the IC3 via www.ic3.gov.