Moldovan Citizen Indicted for Internet Fraud
ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury in Rochester has returned a one-count indictment charging Vasile Leu, 33, of the Country of Moldova, with wire fraud conspiracy. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment, the defendant, a citizen of Moldova, participated in a scheme to defraud purchasers of motor vehicles over the Internet. As part of the scheme, vehicle advertisements were placed online via web sites such as eBay, autotrader.com, and autotraderclassics.com. Potential buyers would respond by e-mail to the advertisements and be contacted by individuals identifying themselves as the listed sellers of the vehicles. Correspondence would occur 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 would be instructed to utilize a third party, such as Google Wallet, to conduct the transaction. These third-party web sites (bogus and unrelated to legitimate third party web sites) were made to look legitimate. Once the buyers signed up for the web sites, they were told that funds sent for the purchase of the vehicles would be secured by the third party while arrangements were made for the vehicles to be shipped. Buyers were also told that the money could not be accessed by the sellers unless instructed by the buyers, and that the buyers would have a five-day inspection period upon vehicle delivery.
The buyers then received an email (purporting to be from the third-party web sites, such as eBay Motors and Google Wallet), directing them to send a wire transfer for the purchase price, plus shipping costs, to bank accounts that were opened by the defendant and a co-conspirator in Rochester, Wisconsin and California using fake names and false Czech Republic passports. After the buyers sent the wire transfers to the bank accounts, the defendant would wire transfer the proceeds overseas, primarily to bank accounts in Ukraine, or withdraw the proceeds. The buyers never received any of the vehicles offered for sale as part of the scheme. Eight individuals from other states and Canada were victimized.
"This marks the second case this week involving deals that were simply too good to be true," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "It is extremely important before purchasing any product over the internet that consumers do their homework and know exactly who it is they are doing business with. If you have any questions, consult the Better Business Bureau or visit www.stopfraud.gov."
The indictment is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.