Members of International Conspiracy Sentenced to Combined 60 Years for Multi-Million Dollar Internet Fraud Scheme
Scheme operated in several states and victimized more than 550 people
LEXINGTON — The perpetrators of an international wire fraud scheme, involving the fraudulent sale of automobiles over the internet, have been sentenced to combined terms of imprisonment totaling more than 60 years.
On Monday, U.S. Senior District Judge Joseph M. Hood sentenced the last of ten defendants involved in the criminal conspiracy. The scheme, which operated in Lexington and other places, originated in Eastern Europe, where conspirators used legitimate websites, such as eBay.com and Autotrader.com, to advertise non-existent vehicles for sale. The advertisements would list the used-vehicles for a competitive price. Once contacted by potential buyers, the conspirators would negotiate the price with victims, via telephone and e-mail.
After an agreement to purchase a vehicle was reached, conspirators instructed victims to wire the purchase funds to United States-based members of the conspiracy, through Western Union, MoneyGram, or a bank wire transfer. The conspirators would then pick up the funds using various forms of fraudulent identification. The United States-based conspirators kept some of the proceeds but wired the rest of the money to the international members of the conspiracy.
Within the United States, the conspiracy operated in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Michigan. In all, more than 550 victims of the scheme, whose losses exceed $2,000,000, have been identified.
The defendants sentenced include Nicholas Corey Garner and Petrica Octavian Stoian. Garner was a leader of the conspiracy who recruited many of the United States-based defendants to join the scheme; he received 240 months in prison. Stoian is a Romanian national, who coordinated several aspects of the international portion of the conspiracy. He admitted to opening bank accounts in Hungary, using false identities, to receive proceeds of the fraud. In June of 2013, the United States extradited Stoian from Hungary, to face the fraud charges in this case. Stoian received 97 months in prison.
Other members of the conspiracy have been sentenced as follows: Dwayne Hardy, 72 months; Nathaniel Garner, 70 months; Harold Smith, 60 months; Brooks Sowell, 60 months; Sabrina Carmichael, 60 months; April Abrams, 36 months; and Eli Holley, 36 months (sentenced Monday). Jelahni Williams, who only participated in the conspiracy for three days, was sentenced to time-served.
Under federal law, each defendant must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence and will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for three years following their release.
Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Craig Hutzell, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, jointly announced the sentences.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin M. Roth prosecuted the case on behalf of the federal government.