Twenty-One Individuals Charged in the United States for Alleged Roles in Internatinoal Internet Fraud Scheme
by Wifredo A. Ferrer
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida
On June 17, 2011, the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida and the Department of Justice announced charges against 21 individuals for their participation in an international internet fraud scheme involving several networks of organized cyber criminals in Romania and the United States. In all, more than 100 individuals were arrested and charged in Romania and various judicial districts in the United States as a result of close cooperation between the Romanian and federal law enforcement authorities and the Department of Justice. Partners included the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorneys' offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Missouri.
On June 16, 2011, Romanian law enforcement executed 117 searches targeting more than 100 individuals allegedly involved in the fraudulent scheme involving fake sales of merchandise through the Internet. Romanian law enforcement targeted individuals organizing and perpetrating this fraud from Romania.
The Romanian investigation was conducted in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations in the United States that also have been targeting this criminal activity. Since May 2010, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida have arrested and prosecuted numerous individuals from Romania, Moldova, and the United States allegedly involved in this fraud scheme. Vadim Gherghelejiu, 29, of Moldova; Anatolie Bisericanu, 25, of Moldova; Jairo Osorno, 22, of Surfside, Floridaa; Jason Eibinder, 22, of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida; and Ciprian Jdera, 25, of Romania, have been convicted in the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
A 21-count indictment returned in Miami on Feb. 22, 2011, charges Pedro Pulido, 41, of Pembroke Pines, Florida; Ivan Boris Barkovic, 19, of Sunny Isles Beach; Beand Dorsainville, 20, of North Miami Beach, Florida; Sergiu Petrov, aka "Serogia," 27, of Moldova; Oleg Virlan, 32, of Moldova; Marian Cristea, 22, of Romania; and Andrian Olarita, 26, of Moldova, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and substantive counts of wire fraud. Pulido, Barkovic, Dorsainville and Olarita have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Petrov, Virlan and Cristea remain at large and are considered fugitives.
On July 8, 2011, Adrian Culda, 37, of Romania, was arrested and subsequently charged in a complaint filed in Miami with conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of this alleged cybercrime activity. Tiberiu Zachiteanu, 19, of Romania, was also charged in the same complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was arrested on July 12, 2011.
According to United States court documents, in many of the cases, conspirators located in Romania would post items for sale such as cars, motorcycles and boats on Internet auction and other websites. They would instruct victims located in the United States and elsewhere who wanted to buy those items to wire transfer the purchase money to a fictitious employee of an escrow company. Once the victim wired the funds, the co-conspirators in Romania would send by text message information about the wire transfer to co-conspirators—known as "arrows"—in the United States to enable them to retrieve the wired funds.
The defendants allegedly also would provide the arrows with instructions about where to send the funds after retrieval. The arrows in the United States would go to money transmitter service counters such as Western Union or MoneyGram International, provide false documents including passports and drivers' licenses in the name of the recipient of the wire transfer, and obtain the funds. They would subsequently wire the funds overseas, typically to individuals in Romania, minus a percentage kept for their commissions. In some cases, co-conspirators in Romania also directed arrows to provide bank accounts in the United States where larger amounts of funds could be wired by victims of the fraud. The victims would not receive the items they believed they were purchasing.
An investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania led to the arrests of seven defendants, including one individual in Pittsburgh, three individuals in the Eastern District of Missouri, two individuals in Fort Bend County, Texas, and one individual in Kentucky.
The Internet fraud scheme has resulted in an estimated loss of more than $10 million from victims, including those in the United States. The full loss amount and identification of additional victims is ongoing. Over the last 10 years, United States law enforcement authorities have strengthened ties with Romanian law enforcement authorities to address the rising threats posed by Romanian-based organized cyber criminal networks. To date, hundreds of defendants have been arrested and charged in the United States, Romania, and other countries as a result of this cooperation.