Two Romanian nationals accused of playing a role in an international system of online auction fraud | USAO-NDOH


Acting US lawyer Bridget M. Brennan has announced that two Romanian nationals have been indicted in a twelve-count indictment, unsealed in federal court today, due to their role in a criminal network International, whose members are engaged in a massive online auction fraud program that targeted victims in the Northern Ohio District and elsewhere in the United States.

Costel Alecu, 37, from Bucharest, Romania, and Madalin Ghinea, 34, from Alexandria, Romania, are both charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to traffic counterfeit service marks, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft. Alecu and Ghinea were arrested by Romanian authorities in March 2021.

The indictment alleges that from July 2008 to August 2020, Alecu, Ghinea and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury devised a scheme to entice victims in the United States and elsewhere to purchase items online, including vehicles and other valuables, which did not exist and to obtain the personally identifiable information of their victims. As a result, the victims suffered a combined loss of approximately US $ 9 million.

To carry out their scheme, Alecu and other members of the conspiracy set up accounts on various auction websites to post advertisements for goods that did not exist. In some cases, Alecu and others are said to have created and used fictitious websites, email addresses and other forms of communication with information about counterfeit brands designed to convince their victims that the ads were genuine. In addition, it is alleged that the group used a number of fraudulent online communication models and email addresses intended to trick victims into believing that they were communicating with legitimate sales representatives, when in fact, they were talking with a member of the conspiracy.

The indictment indicates that around August 2014, Alecu and Ghinea exchanged a number of these fraudulent communication models and their victims’ personal identification information for the purpose of fraud.

Alecu and others allegedly used a network of money launderers and money mules to secure payment from their victims and transfer the funds overseas.

Further, the indictment alleges that Alecu and other members of the group used the stolen personal identification information of their victims, credit cards and bank accounts to launder money at the company. abroad and fund the operation of their network by purchasing items such as virtual private networks and domain names. .

An indictment is only an accusation and does not constitute proof of guilt. An accused has the right to a fair trial in which it will be up to the government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the event of a conviction, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the factors specific to that case, including the defendant’s previous criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. .

In any case, the penalty will not exceed the legal maximum, and in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.

This matter was investigated by the Cleveland FBI with the assistance of the Romanian authorities. This case is being pursued by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Duncan T. Brown and Brian S. Deckert of the Northern District of Ohio and Senior Counsel Timothy Flowers of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division.

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