Two Foreign Nationals Sentenced for Roles in International Money Laundering Scheme Involving Online Sales
Two Bulgarian nationals have been sentenced in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia for their roles as money launderers for a transnational criminal group based in Eastern Europe, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Ivaylo Vasilev Pletnyov, 39, of Svishtov, Bulgaria, was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Pletnyov was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following his prison term and was ordered to pay $306,502 in restitution. Pletnyov pleaded guilty on Jan. 15, 2009.
Nikolay Georgiev Minchev, 45, of Sofia, Bulgaria, was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Minchev was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following his prison term and was ordered to pay $270,444 in restitution. Minchev pleaded guilty on Sept. 21, 2008.
According to court documents, from approximately July 2005 through May 2006, Pletnyov and Minchev participated in a scheme to post advertisements on eBay and other web sites, fraudulently offering expensive vehicles and boats for sale that they did not possess. When the U.S. victims expressed interest in the merchandise, they were contacted directly by an e-mail from a purported seller. The victims were then instructed to wire transfer payments through "eBay Secure Traders"—an entity which has no actual affiliation to eBay but was used as a ruse to persuade the victims that they were sending money into a secure escrow account pending delivery and inspection of their purchases. Instead, the victims’ funds were wired directly into bank accounts in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Greece that were controlled by Pletnyov, Minchev and their co-conspirators. According to court documents, in less than one year, the criminal conspiracy netted more than $1.2 million from U.S. victims.
Pletnyov and Minchev were originally charged on Jan. 9, 2008, along with four additional defendants: Roman Teodor, Georgi Vasilev Pletnyov, Georgi Boychev Georgiev and Antoaneta Angelova Getova. The United States continues to work with foreign counterparts in Romania and Poland regarding the remaining defendants. An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI – Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation (HNBI) Organized Crime Task Force located in Budapest, Hungary (Budapest Task Force). The Budapest Task Force was established by the FBI in April 2000 in an effort to address the increasing threat of Eurasian organized crime groups to the United States. Its objective was to develop cooperation with law enforcement in Central/Eastern Europe, and to identify transnational cases with a nexus to the United States.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Lisa Page of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance on this case.