FOURTEEN CITIZENS OF ROMANIA CHARGED WITH PARTICIPATING IN INTERNET PHISHING SCHEME
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging 14 Romanian citizens with conspiracy, fraud and identity theft offenses stemming from their alleged participation in an extensive Internet “phishing” scheme.
A phishing scheme uses the Internet to target large numbers of unwary individuals, using fraud and deceit to obtain private personal and financial information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Phishing schemes often work by sending out large numbers of counterfeit e-mail messages, which are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies.
Charged in the indictment are CIPRIAN DUMITRU TUDOR, MIHAI CRISTIAN DUMITRU, BOGDAN BOCEANU, BOGDAN-MIRCEA STOICA, OCTAVIAN FUDULU, IULIAN SCHIOPU, RAZVAN LEOPOLD SCHIBA, DRAGOS RAZVAN DAVIDESCU, ANDREI BOLOVAN, LAURENTIU CRISTIAN BUSCA, GABRIEL SAIN, DRAGOS NICOLAE DRAGHICI, STEFAN SORIN ILINCA and MIHAI ALEXANDRU DIDU, all residents of Romania.
The indictment alleges that, in June 2005, one or more defendants sent a spam email to individuals, including a resident of Madison, Conn., which purported to be from Connecticut-based People’s Bank. The email stated that the recipient’s online banking access profile had been locked and instructed recipients to click on a link to a web page where they could enter information to “unlock” their profile. The web page appeared to originate from People’s Bank, but was actually hosted on a compromised computer unrelated to People’s Bank. Any personal identifying and financial information provided by the individual would be sent by email to one or more of the defendants or to a “collector” account, which was an email account used to receive and collect the information obtained through phishing.
It is alleged that TUDOR, DUMITRU and others used and shared a number of collector accounts, which contained thousands of email messages that contained credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, CVV codes, PIN numbers, and other personal identification information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The co-conspirators then used the personal and financial information to access bank accounts and lines of credit and to withdraw funds without authorization, often from ATMs in Romania.
In addition to People’s Bank, financial institutions and companies allegedly targeted by the defendants included Citibank, Capital One, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Comerica Bank, Regions Bank, LaSalle Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo & Co., eBay and PayPal.
On January 18, 2007, a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven returned an indictment charging TUDOR, DUMITRU and others with offenses stemming from this phishing scheme. On November 10, 2010, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging TUDOR, DUMITRU and an additional 12 defendants. The second superseding indictment was sealed pending the extradition of the defendants.
Earlier this month, three of the charged defendants were extradited from Romania to the United States. On December 12, 2011, BOLOVAN, 27, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport, Conn., and the indictment was unsealed at that time. DAVIDESCU, 38, and BUSCA, 26, were arraigned in Bridgeport on December 21, 2011.
Each of the 14 defendants is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million, and conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with access devices, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Certain defendants, including DAVIDESCU and BUSCA, also are charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive two-year term of imprisonment.
BOLOVAN, DAVIDESCU and BUSCA, who have pleaded not guilty to the charges, are detained pending trial, which is currently scheduled for March 2012.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven, Conn., and the Connecticut Computer Crimes Task Force. U.S. Attorney Fein and Special Agent in Charge Mertz also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs; the FBI Legal Attaché in Bucharest; Interpol in Zagreb and Washington, D.C.; the Romanian National Police; and the United States Marshals Service.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward Chang.
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