A superseding indictment charged that Aida Salem, Bogdan Ganescu, Gianina Simon, eleven codefendants, and others in the United States and abroad knowingly devised and participated in a scheme to defraud. Beginning in approximately November 2003 through at least August 2006, more than 2000 victims of the scheme were tricked into believing that they were purchasing items listed for sale on Internet sites and wired funds to the defendants and other co-schemers in amounts in excess of $6 million. The victims never received the items.
As part of the scheme, individuals located outside the United States, principally in Romania (the “foreign coschemers”), posed as sellers of items and lured victims through fraudulent advertisements on Internet sites, typically eBay. When a victim agreed to purchase an item, he or she was instructed to send payment by wire transfer, typically through Western Union. The foreign co-schemers believed that victims in the United States would be more likely to transmit their money if the foreign co-schemers posed as sellers in the United States. Therefore, the foreign co-schemers developed a network of individuals in the United States, including all fourteen defendants and other co-schemers, who were willing to repeatedly pick up the funds/fraud proceeds from a Western Union agent. After retaining a portion (typically 20% to 40%) of the fraud proceeds received, the defendants and other co-schemers transmitted the balance of the proceeds to Romania.
In order to reduce the risk of apprehension by law enforcement, the co-schemers obtained and used false identification documents when picking up the fraud proceeds from a Western Union agent. This required ongoing communication between the persons who managed the receipt of fraud proceeds in the United States—schemers such as Adrian Fechete, Raimondoray Cerna, and Gabriel Constantin—and the foreign coschemers. The co-schemers communicated their changing aliases to the foreign co-schemers, and the foreign co-schemers incorporated the alias names into their Internet communications with potential victims, usually as the “seller,” “seller’s agent,” or “eBay agent” of the item offered for sale. Once someone agreed to purchase an item, he or she was instructed to send the funds via Western Union to the alias name provided by a defendant to the foreign co-schemers. The victim provided funds via Western Union in payment for the item. The foreign co-schemers gave the appropriate coschemer the information necessary to complete the wire transfer that had been provided by the victim. Then the co-schemer presented himself or herself, using the matching alias identification documents at a Western Union, representing himself or herself as the authorized payee for the wire transfer of funds and received the funds.
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
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|Stephanie Michelle Zimdahl||US Attorney's Office|