Romanian man sentenced for laundering $3.5 million in fraudulent online auction proceeds
A Romanian national was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on Monday for participating in an international cybercrime ring that used fake advertisements to scam more than 900 U.S. residents.
Ionut-Razvan Sandu, 35, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to several charges connected to a scheme in which the gang posted on popular online auction and sales websites like eBay for goods that did not actually exist.
According to the Justice Department, Sandu is the 24th member of the gang to be sentenced, and four others are awaiting their own sentencing. Sandu was accused of personally laundering more than $3.5 million in cryptocurrency gained through the scheme.
U.S. Attorney Carlton Shier said the charges are the result of a “massive, years-long effort” by the U.S. Secret Service to shut down the ring.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said.
According to the DOJ, the criminal ring started its work around October 2014, when Sandu and others created a process enabling U.S.-based cybercriminals to launder the proceeds gained from online auction fraud.
Romanian nationals Ciprian-Ionut Filip and Gabriel Constantin Georgescu, both 37, worked with others to post fake advertisements on the the auction sites using fake accounts. They were both sentenced in November to more than five years in prison.
At times they used fake identities to communicate with those interested in buying the fake goods, which typically were used cars or other items targeting working-class Americans.
The DOJ said they frequently posed as members of the U.S. military needing to sell goods before being deployed. To make victims feel secure in sending money, the scammers produced invoices and even set up call centers to answer any questions and offer support.
Once the money was sent by victims, the U.S.-based scammers converted the funds to cryptocurrency and then sent them to Sandu – as well as Rafael-Liviu Cucu, 33, and Alexandru-Catalin Calin, 40.
Cucu and Calin would then convert the cryptocurrency back to fiat currency. They were both sentenced to five years in prison.
The U.S. law enforcement agencies involved – including the Kentucky State Police, Lexington Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation and U.S. Postal Inspection Service – worked with officials in Romania and Bulgaria to arrest and extradite those involved in the scheme.
“Financial crimes that take place in the cyber domain have a very real impact on everyday Americans and their families,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Holman of the U.S. Secret Service Louisville Field Office.