FEDERAL JURY FINDS ROMANIAN NATIONAL GUILTY
OF 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 in New Haven, today announced that a federal jury in New Haven has found BOGDAN BOCEANU, 29, a citizen of Romania, guilty of conspiracy offenses stemming from his participation in an extensive Internet “phishing” scheme. The trial began on December 6 and the jury returned its verdict today. BOCEANU is the tenth Romanian citizen convicted as a result of this long-term investigation.
“This case shows the resolve of federal law enforcement to bring to justice individuals who use the Internet to victimize U.S. residents and companies,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “I commend our FBI agents for their expert investigation of computer crimes, as well as our law enforcement partners overseas who have provided critical assistance to this prosecution.”
“Today’s guilty verdict represents the tenth conviction in this lengthy, complex and significant investigation,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “The FBI has a crucial message to those who are inclined to commit similar crimes: Our reach is global, and working with our exceptional international law enforcement partners, as in Romania, we have the ability to extradite you from across the world. Whether or not you ever step foot in this country, if you commit crimes against the United States, and in this case by operating a sophisticated Internet phishing scheme, the FBI will find you and bring you to justice.”
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 that are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies. The fraudulent email messages ask individuals to click on a hyperlink contained in the email message, which would take the individual to a counterfeit site on the Internet that purports to be the Internet site of the particular bank, financial institution or company. At the counterfeit Internet site, the individual is then asked to enter information such as the individual’s name, address and credit or debit card numbers.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, in June 2005, a resident of Madison, Conn., contacted the FBI in New Haven about a suspicious email that she had received that 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 the recipient to click on a link to a web page where the recipient could enter information to “unlock” his or her profile. The web page appeared to originate from People’s Bank, but, as the investigation revealed, was actually hosted on a compromised computer in Minnesota. Any personal identifying and financial information provided by the individual would be sent by email to individuals in Romania, or to a “collector” account, which was an email account used to receive and collect the information obtained through phishing.
The co-conspirators were part of a loose-knit conspiracy of individuals from Craiova, Romania, and neighboring areas that shared files, tools, and stolen information obtained through phishing. The co-conspirators 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.
The evidence showed that BOCEANU exchanged with a co-conspirator emails containing numerous credit card numbers that had been obtained through the scheme, and trial testimony revealed that BOCEANU received from another co-conspirator credit card numbers, account user names and passwords, as well as other identifying information of numerous victims. BOCEANU also purchased a machine used to encode stolen account information on magnetic strips on credit and debit cards.
In addition to People’s Bank, financial institutions and companies 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.
This seven-year investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 19 Romanian citizens. On January 18, 2007, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging seven defendants with various offenses stemming from this scheme. On November 10, 2010, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging an additional 12 defendants.
The first three defendants to face charges were extradited from Bulgaria, Croatia and Canada. Following the ratification in 2010 of an amended treaty on mutual legal assistance between Romania and the United States, the following seven defendants were extradited from Romania: BOGDAN BOCEANU, Bogdan-Mircea Stoica, Dragos Razvan Davidescu, Laurentiu Cristian Busca, Gabriel Sain, Dragos Nicolae Draghici and Andrei Bolovan.
Andrei Bolovan, who was extradited in December 2010, was the first Romanian national extradited from Romania to the United States under the amended treaty.
The jury found BOCEANU guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with access devices. When he is sentenced, BOCEANU faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 35 years.
Each of the other nine extradited defendants has pleaded guilty. Nine defendants are still being sought.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven, Conn.
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, the Romanian National Police and the United States Marshals Service.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Chang and Sarala Nagala.
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