(Baton Rouge) Today, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced that formal State Racketeering charges have been filed against four Romanian-Moldovan nationals. The individuals are part of a massive international organized crime ring whose main source of illegal income is online auction fraud, costing U.S. citizens tens of millions of dollars every year.
This prosecution is part of an ongoing coordinated effort between State and Federal prosecutors, local law enforcement, the FBI and the United States Secret Service.
Dimitar Dimitrov, 22, Radu Manolache, 40, Ion Antohi, 25, and Andrei Golovco, 27, have been charged with one count of violating the Louisiana Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 50 years at hard labor, and are accused of participating in an automobile sale scam using counterfeit eBay and Auto Trader accounts to lure victims into wiring money for the purchase of the vehicles.
The scam works as follows: The victim responds to a classified ad for a vehicle, which appears to be legitimate and at a reasonable price. After the price and details are agreed upon via e-mail, the scammer sends a counterfeit eBay motors or Auto Trader page (that looks identical to the real page) requesting payment. Funds are wired and no vehicle is received. The individuals charged are alleged to be runners or “arrows” in this scheme who are stationed in the U.S., receive the ill-gotten funds through U.S. bank accounts and wire the money overseas, minus a commission.
Attorney General Caldwell said, “By prosecuting these individuals under the RICO statute which carries serious penalties, we aim to send a message to other members of this organization to think twice about victimizing Louisiana citizens. These investigations and prosecutions will also help us better educate the public to keep our citizens from becoming victims in the first place.”
CONSUMER TIPS: Consumers attempting to purchase higher dollar merchandise through auction websites or classified ads, whether vehicles or electronic devices, should be on the lookout for the following signs of fraud:
- Users whose registered names (location provided to eBay) do not match where payment is being sent.
- Users who list clean, easy to read auctions, but then communicate with very poor or broken English (a sign the auction was created by the seller and may have been copied).
- Never respond directly to an e-mail link purporting to be eBay or Auto Trader (or other auction website) from the seller. Instead, go to the website, log in, and attempt to find the transaction. If you cannot find it, the transaction is probably a fraud.