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A Defendant laundered over $3.5 million in fraudulent online auction proceeds as part of a scheme that defrauded over 900 Americans. This is a major wire fraud incident which activated sentence to federal prison.
Among the 28 members of the organized criminal group who have been charged, a Romanian national was sentenced today to 89 months in prison for his role in a transnational, multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud American victims.
Ionut-Razvan Sandu, 35, of Romania pled guilty in April 2022 for conspiring to break the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Over the next three days, starting Nov. 16, 2022, four other defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced accordingly: Rafael-Liviu Cucu, 33, received 61 months; Alexandru-Catalin Calin, 40, was given 61 months; Ciprian-Ionut Filip, 37, gotten 70 months; and Gabriel Constantin Georgescu, 37 was sentenced to 63 months.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division remarked that this well-structured and refined syndicate perpetrated a theft from the pockets of hardworking Americans, utilizing digital currency in order to cleanse their criminally attained money. He went on to emphasize that today’s outcome is confirmation that the Criminal Division and law enforcement entities will never relent in pursuing cybercriminals aiming to victimize the American public – regardless of where they live or what methods they employ to conceal their activities.
U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky emphasized the importance of wire fraud, which has caused Americans across the country to lose millions of dollars in recent years. To combat this growing challenge, a collaborative effort between law enforcement has been deemed essential. This case is an example of that unity, with the U.S. Secret Service leading a long investigation and other partners joining forces to bring those responsible to justice. Such exceptional work warrants commendation, and we are proud to have taken part in this remarkable endeavor against cyber fraudsters.
The U.S. Secret Service Louisville Field Office Special Agent in Charge Robert Holman said that financial crimes in cyberspace have a real impact on Americans and their families. We remain committed to investigating such crimes, and we appreciate the continued support of our local, state, federal, and international law enforcement partners in bringing those responsible to justice as we work together.
According to plea documents, Sandu and other members of the criminal organization developed a process and offered a service to co-conspirators based in the United States and abroad in order to launder the proceeds of online auction fraud starting in October 2014.
Court documents indicated that Georgescu, Filip, and their co-conspirators utilized various online platforms to post fraudulent advertisements for goods that never existed. The postings were aimed at working-class individuals, with phony accounts created using the stolen identity of US citizens to communicate with victims.
The conspirators employed multiple methods to encourage victims to pay for the products in their ads. They, for instance, passed themselves off as a military personnel who had to get rid of the item before being deployed. Furthering their plan, they sent out bills with trademarks of reliable companies so that the exchange would seem reliable. For added assurance, they set up fake call centers to act as customer service, answer inquiries and reduce any doubts about the advertisement.
Upon receiving payment, members of the conspiracy went ahead with a convoluted money laundering operation run by Sandu and other conspirators. Funds collected from victims was changed into cryptocurrency and transferred overseas to the foreign-based money launderers, Cucu and Calin. They would carry out transactions with the help of other conspirators to convert bitcoin into physical cash. Sandu has been accused of laundering more than $3.5 million gained from this deceitful activity. Law enforcement has located over 900 of these perpetrators’ victims.
The U.S. Secret Service, Kentucky State Police, Lexington Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) conducted an investigation with significant support from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. The Romanian National Police (Service for Combating Cybercrime), Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (Agency for Prosecuting Organized Crime), Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation of the Republic of Bulgaria also provided assistance.
Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn M. Dieruf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky are prosecuting the case.
For more information about the online auction wire fraud scheme described herein, visit www.justice.gov/usao-edky/information-victims-large-cases.
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