Romanian authorities coordinated efforts with the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday by conducting over 100 searches surrounding an Internet auction scheme. Their intention is to break up the group that is perpetrating fraud on the public. Over the past year they have successfully arrested more than 100 people in both the U.S. and Romania, according to a DOJ statement Friday.
The most typically pattern of fraud involved a Romanian who would put items up for sale on the Internet, such as motorcycles, cars, and boats. The items were posted on auction sites, most often, though some involved other websites. Americans who wanted to buy an item would be instructed to wire money to a fake name, who was supposed to be an employee of an escrow firm.
Of course, you guessed it – the buyer would never receive the item purchased. More than $10 million has been nabbed in this scheme by the thieves, according to the DOJ. American cohorts of the Romanian thieves would be told how to pick up the money and where to forward it. Certainly the arrows, as the American go-betweens are called, would present fake id when securing the wire transfer at either MoneyGram or Western Union.
The arrows would forward the money, minus their fee, to the Romanian thieves. Some arrows went to elaborate measures creating fake bank accounts the victims could transfer payment to.
Among the many Romanian law enforcement agencies cooperating in the cases are Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police, the Romanian Intelligence Service, the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Infractions of Organized Crime and Terrorism, the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Infractions of Organized Crime and Terrorism. On the U.S. side are the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. attorneys’ offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, and the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Missouri. That is some major firepower to bring down this ring of bandits.
Since May of last year the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Missouri has prosecuted many people in connection with the scheme. Five of them originate from Moldova, Romania, or Florida. The conviction was conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Seven people were charged with 21 counts in Florida last February. Four pleaded guilty, while the rest (from Romania and Moldavia) are at large. Two Romanians were arrest within the past week and charged in Florida.
Houston Police grabbed two people in June, who had tried to use fake id while picking up $2,890 at a Wal-Mart store’s Western Union and MoneyGram. The devices for printing fake id was uncovered at their residence, in addition to money.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania arrested seven involved in the scheme. Two were from Texas, three from Missouri, one from Pittsburgh, and another from Kentucky, the DOJ reported. Four caved and pleaded guilty. Two of them were sentenced to prison time and must repay $18,365 in damages, in connection with the passport fraud charges and forgery.