Good afternoon. This afternoon, Prosecutor General Kövesi and I had a productive meeting in which we both expressed our commitment on behalf of the United States and Romania, to working together to fight international crime. The extradition and legal assistance treaties signed by President Basescu last week show that this is not just talk—we are serious about cooperating on this important issue.
As a timely example of that cooperation, today U.S. authorities in Los Angeles, California, executed nine arrest warrants, and simultaneously Romanian authorities executed several search warrants, as part of the investigation of an elaborate international organized crime ring operating in both countries.
In federal courts in California and Connecticut, the United States Department of Justice has brought racketeering and other charges against 38 individuals living in the U.S. and Romania. Today we are announcing that those indictments are unsealed.
Together, the United States and Romania will continue to work as partners to investigate and prosecute these cases.
In recent years, we both have seen an increase in the threat posed by international organized criminals who use cyberspace to target victims around the world. The anonymity of the Internet makes it an ideal tool for this kind of fraud, and law enforcement agencies in the United States have conducted several recent investigations in partnership with our Romanian colleagues. We are proud to do so, and we are learning from each other as we jointly help to protect our citizens and people in other countries from this sort of theft and crime.
For the people arrested today, the indictments charge that the defendants sent out mass quantities of e-mails, known as "spam," to lure victims to go to fraudulent Websites that appeared to be legitimate banking or financial businesses. At those sites, victims were tricked into entering personal information such as financial and identity information and personal passwords—a scheme known as "phishing." That information was then harvested by "suppliers" who, in turn, sent the information to "cashiers" via real-time Internet chat sessions.
The cashiers used hardware encoders and related software to record the fraudulently obtained information onto the magnetic strips on the back of credit and debit cards. They then directed "runners" to withdraw money from automated teller machines. A portion of the withdrawals was wired by money transfer services, such as Western Union, back to the supplier. We believe these criminals defrauded literally thousands of individual victims out of several million dollars.
These arrests and charges are the result of a joint operation by the FBI and the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police, and the cases demonstrate the close cooperation our two countries have developed to fight international organized crime. Great credit goes to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, California, and to U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Aveis there. In addition, I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Connecticut, and Acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy and Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Chang for their leadership. I would also like please to credit the assistance of the Home Affairs Attaché of the Romanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., for invaluable help. But particular credit goes to Prosecutor General Kövesi, whose cooperation made these cases possible. Her office has made organized cybercrime a top priority, and the United States is extremely grateful for her leadership on this issue. We also support her efforts to maintain a strong and independent Prosecutor General’s office, and to root out corruption in Romania. Thank you Madam Prosecutor.
The United States government takes the threat of international organized crime seriously, and the Romanian government does as well. This kind of coordinated response is absolutely vital to our fight. We look forward to working together in the future.
International organized criminals who exploit the power and convenience of the Internet do not recognize national borders. Our efforts to stop them cannot end at our borders either. We are very proud of the success of this joint operation. Of course, those who are charged, like any defendant charged in America, are presumed innocent. However, we look forward to the opportunity to present the evidence assembled against those who have been indicted, and we will continue to work with our Romanian partners to use all lawful means to prosecute international organized criminals who engage in cyber crime.