Eastern European Man Pleads Guilty to Internet Fraud
Rochester, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Dumitru Doban, a/k/a Octavian Kucera, a/k/a Kucera Oktavian, a/k/a Pavel Luhovny, a/k/a Michal Pudil, a/k/a Tomas Kulla, 27, of Moldova, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to wire fraud conspiracy. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant, a citizen of Moldova, participated in a conspiracy to defraud purchasers of motor vehicles over the Internet. As part of the scheme, vehicle advertisements were placed online via websites such as eBay, autotrader.com, and autotraderclassics.com. Potential buyers responded by e-mail to the advertisements and were be contacted by individuals identifying themselves as the listed sellers of the vehicles. E-mail correspondence occurred between the two parties with descriptions of the vehicles, negotiations of the purchase price, shipping information, and purchase information. Once an agreement was reached for the purchase of the vehicles, the buyers were instructed to utilize a third party, such as eBay Motors and Google Wallet, to conduct the transaction. These third-party websites (bogus and unrelated to legitimate third party websites) were made to look legitimate.
After signing up for the third-party websites, the buyers were sent e-mails (purporting to be from the third-party websites, such as eBay Motors and Google Wallet), directing them to send wire transfers for the purchase price, plus shipping costs, to bank accounts that were opened by the defendant in Rochester, New York, Columbus, Ohio, Alexandria, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama, using fake names and false Czech Republic passports. After the buyers sent the wire transfers to the bank accounts, the defendant sent the money overseas, primarily to the Ukraine and Moldova, through bank-to-bank wire transfers and money transfer services, or withdrew the money from the accounts. The prospective online buyers never received any of the vehicles supposedly offered for sale as part of the scheme.
A total of 18 people, from New York, California, Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, and Canada, were victims of the Internet fraud scheme. Those victims transferred a total of $257,489 to the bank accounts opened by the defendant. As part of the plea agreement, the defendant admitted that the overall conspiracy – which included similar fraudulent conduct by a co-conspirator, Alexandru Turcan, in the Northern District of New York -- involved losses of more than $400,000 but less than $1,000,000.
Another defendant, Vasile Leu, also a citizen of Moldova, is being prosecuted for allegedly participating in the same Internet fraud scheme. A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Leu with wire fraud conspiracy on September 24, 2013. The case is still pending, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted in a Court of law.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Boetig.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 7, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. before Judge Geraci.