U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of NY
On Thursday, charges were unsealed against Romanian fugitive Nicolae Popescu, the leader of an international organized crime syndicate that ran a multimillion-dollar cyber-fraud scheme, and six other fugitives charged with participating in the same scheme. Interpol has issued notices to foreign law enforcement partners seeking assistance in the apprehension of these fugitives, and the FBI has also released “Wanted” posters to facilitate their arrests.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, based in Brooklyn; George Venizelos, assistant director-in-charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Office; and Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Popescu, Romanian nationals Daniel Alexei, Dmitru Daniel Bosogioiu, Ovidiu Cristea and Dragomir Razvan, and a defendant who goes by the names “George Skyper” and “Tudor Barbu Lautaru,” as well as Albanian national Fabjan Meme, were originally charged in a criminal complaint with six other defendants for their participation in a cyber-fraud conspiracy that targeted primarily American consumers on such U.S.-based websites as Cars.com and AutoTrader.com.
Popescu, Alexe, Bosogioiu, Cristea, Razvan and Meme have remained at large. The other defendants have been arrested.
As alleged in the complaint and subsequent indictment, the defendants participated in a long-term conspiracy to saturate Internet marketplace websites with detailed advertisements for cars, motorcycles, boats and other high-value items. The defendants employed co-conspirators who corresponded with the buyers by email, sending fraudulent certificates of title and other information designed to lure them
into parting with their money.
The defendants allegedly even pretended to sell cars from nonexistent auto dealerships in the United States and created phony websites for these fictitious
After the “sellers” reached an agreement with the victim buyers, they would often email them invoices purporting to be from Amazon, 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.
It is estimated that the defendants earned more than $3 million from the fraudulent scheme.
“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. They thought their distance would insulate them from law enforcement scrutiny. They were wrong,” said United States Attorney Lynch.