Two Romanians charged in online auction scam
Two Romanian nationals are charged in a 12-count indictment — unsealed in U.S. District Court, Akron, on Tuesday — stemming from their alleged roles in an international criminal network involving an online auction fraud scheme targeting northern Ohio and other parts of the U.S.
Costel Alecu, 37, of Bucharest, Romania, and Madalin Ghinea, 34, of Alexandria, Romania, are both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft. Alecu and Ghinea were arrested in March in Romania. The arrests were announced Tuesday in a news release by acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan.
The indictment alleges that beginning in July 2008 through August 2020, Alecu, Ghinea and others devised a scheme to entice Americans to purchase items online, including vehicles and other high-value items, that did not exist. The scheme was to obtain the personal identifying information of potential buyers. As a result, victims suffered a combined loss of approximately $9 million in U.S. dollars.
To conduct their scheme, Alecu and other members of the conspiracy created accounts on various auction websites to post advertisements for goods that did not exist. In certain cases, Alecu and others allegedly used counterfeit trademarks and other fraudulent templates and emails in their communication to convince potential victims the advertisements were genuine.
The indictment states that around August 2014, Alecu and Ghinea utilized the information obtained in their scheme. Alecu and others allegedly used a network of money launderers and money mules to steal money and transfer funds overseas. Also, the indictment alleges that Alecu and other members of the group used personal identification data from victims’ credit cards and bank accounts to launder money and fund the illegal operation.