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Romanian admits huge online scam

February 18, 2011

A Romanian man has admitted his part in a scam that saw customers of AutoTrader, Craigslist and eBay conned out of $2.7 million. The Department of Justice in the US announced yesterday that Adrian Ghighina, 33, of Bucharest, pleaded guilty at Illinois District Court to charges to money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy.

The scheme, which was first set up in 2004, saw the gang of 11 receive payments from people who thought they were buying motorcycles, RVs and cars from legitimate online sellers. According to prosecutors, Ghighina acted as the money mule, transferring the cash from the buyers to toher members of the gang.

Most of the money was sent through Western Union, with Ghighina’s crew using a variety of tricks to reassure buyers that their money would be safe. The team also hijacked other people’s eBay accounts or sent fake “second chance” offers to unsuspecting buyers.

Scams are so common on online marketplaces that Craigslist even tells its users on the website never to wire money directly to sellers, as “anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer”. The con artists were still able to siphon money out of 1,100 victims, however.

As payment for his part in the scheme, Ghighina would take a cut of up to 40 percent of all cash amounts wired to him, sometimes totalling thousands of dollars at a time. He could face 20 years in prison when he is sentence on May 9 this year.

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