Two Romanians have been charged in connection with an online auction fraud scheme that targeted victims in the U.S, acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan said on Tuesday.
Costel Alecu, 37, and Madalin Ghinea, 34, are charged in the indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, conspiracy to commit money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
The pair were arrested in Romania in March.
The indictment alleges that from July 2008 to August 2020, Alecu, Ghinea and others devised a scheme to entice victims in fraud scheme that targeted victims in the Northern District of Ohio and elsewhere in the U.S. to purchase vehicles and other high-value items online.
In reality, the items didn’t exist. As a result, victims suffered a combined loss of approximately $9 million.
To conduct their scheme, Alecu and other members of the conspiracy created accounts on various auction websites to post advertisements for non-existent goods.
In some cases, they allegedly created and used fictitious websites, email addresses and other forms of communication. They contained counterfeit trademark information designed to convince their victims that the advertisements were genuine.
The indictment states that around August of 2014, the pair exchanged a number of these fraudulent communication templates and the personal identifying information of their victims for use in the scheme to defraud.
Alecu and others allegedly used a network of money launderers and money mules to obtain payment from their victims and transfer the funds overseas.
The case was investigated by the Cleveland FBI with help from Romanian authorities.
Ms Brennan is the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.