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Man Sentenced for Laundering $3.5 Million in Fraudulent Online Auction Proceeds

 

A Romanian man was sentenced to over seven years in prison for his role in an international cybercrime ring that scammed over 900 U.S. residents. Ionut-Razvan Sandu, 35, pleaded guilty to multiple charges in April of 2022 related to the scheme. The group posted fake advertisements on popular online auction and sales websites, like eBay, for goods that did not exist. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Sandu is the 24th member of the gang to be sentenced, and four others are still awaiting sentencing. Sandu was accused of personally laundering over $3.5 million in cryptocurrency obtained through the scam.

U.S. Attorney Carlton Shier stated that these charges resulted from a long-term effort by the U.S. Secret Service to shut down the ring. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite commented on the crime, saying, “This highly organized and sophisticated syndicate stole directly from the pockets of hard-working Americans. The criminals then used digital currency to launder their ill-gotten gains”.

The Justice Department stated that the cybercrime ring began its operation in October 2014 when Sandu and other individuals created a process that enabled U.S.-based cybercriminals to launder proceeds obtained from online auction fraud. Sandu and his accomplices used fake identities to communicate with potential buyers of fake goods, such as cars, targeting working-class Americans. The scammers even posed as U.S. military personnel selling goods before deployment, used invoices to give a sense of security, and set up call centres to answer any questions and offer support.

Once the victims sent money, the U.S.-based scammers converted the funds to cryptocurrency and sent them to Sandu and others, who would then convert the cryptocurrency back to fiat currency. The U.S. law enforcement agencies involved, in cooperation with officials from Romania and Bulgaria, arrested and extradited those involved in the scheme.

Special Agent in Charge Robert Holman of the U.S. Secret Service Louisville Field Office emphasized the impact of this crime, stating, “Financial crimes that take place in the cyber domain have a very real impact on everyday Americans and their families.”

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