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A Romanian citizen who traveled to Seattle in April 2013 in an attempt to scam participants in internet auctions pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to bank fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. DANIEL MUNTEANU, 29, was arrested May 1, 2013 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Amsterdam. While in Seattle MUNTEANU used phony passports to establish bank accounts and mail box rentals. Using the accounts and mail drops, he and co-conspirators scammed various participants in eBay auctions. MUNTEANU is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Martinez on October 24, 2013.
According to records filed in the case, MUNTEANU’s co-conspirators picked victims by contacting those who had been unsuccessful in bidding for boats, cars, farm equipment or other vehicles on eBay. Posing as sellers, the co-conspirators would seek to negotiate the sale of the item the victim had bid on in the auction. After striking a deal, victims would receive emails appearing to be from eBay and their “Purchase Protection Plan.” The emails even had a link to an eBay “live help” function. But the emails and links were fraudulent. Purchasers thought their payments were going into a secure escrow account until they could inspect the vehicles. Instead, the purchasers’ money went directly to accounts opened in false names by MUNTEANU using phony passports. MUNTEANU controlled the accounts and quickly moved the money off shore to co-conspirators in Romania. In all, five victims suffered losses of more than $120,000.
“This type of fraud erodes trust and undermines legitimate online commerce, and we will track down and prosecute scam artists,” said U. S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “I appreciate the efforts of the Homeland Security Investigations agents who pursued this case and protected the victims.”
“The vast majority of online auctions are legitimate, which leaves consumers who’ve had positive online buying experiences with a false sense of security,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “The defendant and his co-conspirators in this case exploited this vulnerability to swindle their victims. While HSI works closely with its enforcement partners here and overseas to aggressively target this type of crime, consumers must take steps to protect themselves.”
Bank Fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Vaughan.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Thomas Bates at (206) 553-7970 or Thomas.Bates@usdoj.gov.