Sixteen Persons Charged in International Internet Fraud Scheme
Las Vegas, Nev. – Federal charges have been unsealed against 16 individuals for their involvement in an international internet scheme that defrauded online purchasers of purported merchandise such as automobiles and other items, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
The defendants are charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and criminal forfeiture. Thirteen of the defendants were arrested in Las Vegas yesterday, December 14, 2011. Most of those defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Robert J. Johnston yesterday, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Several other defendants are scheduled for initial court appearances today beginning at 3:00 p.m. One individual was arrested at Washington Dulles International National Airport in Virginia, and appeared before a federal magistrate judge there, and the remaining two defendants have not yet been arrested.
According to the allegations in the indictment, from about December 2008 to December 2011, conspirators situated outside of the United States listed and offered items for sale on internet sites (such as Craigslist and Autotrader) and occasionally also placed advertisements in newspapers. The items offered for sale included automobiles, travel trailers and watercraft. The conspirators typically offered the items at attractive prices and often stated that personal exigencies, such as unemployment, military deployment, or family emergencies, required that they sell the offered items quickly. To gain the confidence of prospective buyers, conspirators posing as owners of the items instructed buyers that the transactions were to be completed through eBay, Yahoo!Finance, or similar on-line services, which would securely hold the buyers' funds until the purchased items were delivered. The conspirators sent e-mails to buyers which appeared or purported to be from eBay, Yahoo!Finance, or other such entities, and which instructed buyers to remit payment to designated agents of those entities who were to hold the purchase money in escrow until the transactions was concluded. In reality, the entire transaction was a sham: the conspirators did not deliver any of the items offered for sale; neither eBay, Yahoo!Finance, nor any similar entity participated in these transactions; and the purported escrow agents designated to receive buyers' purchase money were actually participants in the scheme who received the funds fraudulently obtained from buyers on behalf of the conspiracy.
Relying on the schemers fraudulent representations, scores of buyers agreed to purchase items that the schemers offered on-line and in newspaper advertisements. The conspirators kept and converted the fraudulently obtained purchase money for their own purposes. The defendants and their associates allegedly obtained more than $3 million through the fraud scheme, which they distributed among the conspirators both inside and outside the United States.
- Eduard Petroiu, 28, Las Vegas resident
- Vladimir Budestean, 24, Las Vegas resident
- Bertly Ellazar, 27, Las Vegas resident
- Radu Lisnic, 25, Las Vegas resident
- Evghenii Russu, 25, Las Vegas resident
- Evgeny Krylov, 24, Las Vegas resident
- Eugeni Stoytchev, 35, Las Vegas resident
- Iavor Stoytchev, 28, Las Vegas resident
- Christopher Castro, 27, Las Vegas resident
- Delyana Nedyalkova, 23, Las Vegas resident
- Oleh Rymarchuk, 21, Las Vegas resident
- Melanie Pascua, 25, Las Vegas resident
- Manuel Garza, 23, Las Vegas resident
- Ryne Green, 25, Las Vegas resident
- Michael Vales, 22, Las Vegas resident
- Edelin Dimitrov, 20, Las Vegas resident
The indictment identifies Eduard Petroiu as a leader of the conspiracy and six others, including Vladimir Budestean, Bertly Ellazar, Radu Lisnic, Evghenii Russu, and Eugeni Stoytechev as subordinate managers of the conspiracy.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 60 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million.
The arrests result from a joint investigation by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as part of its Nevada Cyber Crime and Southern Nevada Eastern European Organized Crime Task Forces. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy S. Vasquez.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Anyone with information regarding these individuals is urged to call the FBI in Las Vegas at (702) 385-1281 or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at (702) 385-5555 or visit www.crimestoppersofnv.com. Tips directly leading to an arrest or an indictment processed through Crime Stoppers may result in a cash reward. Internet related criminal complaints may also be directed to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.