Three Romanian Citizens Sentenced For Internet Scam
Defendants Used False Passports to Collect and Transfer Fraud Proceeds from Western Union Outlets in Atlanta Area
Atlanta, GA - SILVIU LEOVEANU, 32, IONUT BUDULAN, 28, and SILVIU MALEA, 30, all three citizens and residents of Romania, were sentenced today by United States District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. to federal prison on charges arising from an Internet-based fraud scheme to collect money from phony advertisements for cars and merchandise, and then send the funds to co-conspirators in Romania.
“This case shows how unscrupulous fraudsters are taking advantage of the thriving Internet marketplace, and how people need to be cautious when spending their money on the Internet,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “These schemes reach across the globe into our community. These three defendants’ only purpose for being in Atlanta was to connect a Romanian fraud organization to victims in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States. We’ll continue to pursue these types of fraud schemes as far across the world as they take us. ”
“I am extremely pleased with the results in this case. The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection will continue to fight hard against this type of fraud,” said John Sours, Administrator of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.
“We are gratified to have worked with our law enforcement partners in terminating the defendants illegal manipulation of the internet" said Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent In Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office. “We will continue to endeavor to maintain the integrity of the Internet for all law-abiding citizens.”
“This case clearly demonstrates the hard work and collaboration of law enforcement resources when combating fraud against the American public. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to aggressively investigate criminal and illegal acts where the U.S. Mail is used to further fraudulent schemes,” said Keith Morris, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division.
LEOVEANU was sentenced to 33 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. BUDULAN was sentenced to 54 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. MALEA was sentenced to 41 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. The defendants were convicted of these charges on December 21, 2011, upon their pleas of guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, and passport fraud charges.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: from at least November 2010 through approximately June 10, 2011, the defendants and others conspired in a mail and wire fraud scheme, based primarily in Romania, that involved the false advertising of cars and other merchandise on Internet web sites, trade magazines and newspapers in the United States. Prospective buyers who responded to these false advertisements were instructed by email to send their purchase money to a purported third-party escrow account via Western Union. The prospective buyers were assured that their purchase money would not be released to the seller until the buyers received and inspected the vehicles or other merchandise. In fact, the purported third-party escrow accounts did not exist.
LEOVEANU, BUDULAN and MALEA entered the United States from Romania and picked up the money transfers from prospective buyers at various Western Union outlets (primarily Publix grocery stores) in the Northern District of Georgia and elsewhere using false passports and driver’s licenses. The defendants never intended to provide the purchased motor vehicles and other merchandise to the prospective buyers, and no vehicles or merchandise were ever provided to the victim-buyers. In at least one instance, LEOVEANU received a package sent by Federal Express from Romania to a UPS store located in Duluth, Georgia, which contained four incomplete counterfeit foreign passports and four incomplete counterfeit foreign driver’s licenses. The passports and driver’s licenses were incomplete in that they contained a picture of the purported passport holder, but not the name of the purported passport holder or other identifying information. Each passport corresponded to a specific driver’s license. Pictures of LEOVEANU and MALEA, among others, were each on a passport and a driver’s license, and LEOVEANU and MALEA subsequently used completed versions of these passports in furtherance of the conspiracy. In at least some instances, the defendants sent money received from Western Union transfers to co-conspirators in Romania in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Resources for the public regarding internet fraud schemes can be found on the website for the Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. The webpage contains summaries and descriptions of common Internet fraud schemes, including those perpetrated by the Romanian organization here: http://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx#item-2. The webpage also contains advice for consumers to avoid becoming victims of Internet fraud: http://www.ic3.gov/preventiontips.aspx. The Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org or 404-766-0875) maintains a database of more than two million businesses and charities and publishes reliability reports summarizing the experiences of other customers. Finally, the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection maintains a list of known scams on its website: http://www.ocp.ga.gov/scams-and-tips.
This case was investigated by Investigators of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection in conjunction with Inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service and Special Agents of the United States Secret Service.
Assistant United States Attorneys Nick Oldham and Steven D. Grimberg prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.