The FBI is looking for a Romanian national who led a band of cyber fraudsters that bilked unsuspecting Americans of millions of dollars on eBay and other sites.
Nicolae Popescu and six others are charged in the scheme, in which they advertised cars, motorcycles, boats, and other high-value items – generally priced in the $10,000 to $45,000 range – that did not actually exist using websites like eBay, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and CycleTrader.com. The FBI says the ring pulled in over $3 million.
“As alleged, the defendants infiltrated the cyber marketplace with advertisements for high-value items that didn’t exist,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos. “They siphoned funds from victims to fuel their greedy desires and created false identities, fake websites and counterfeit certificates of title in order to make the scheme more convincing.”
On Thursday, the FBI announced
it had issued “wanted” posters and Interpol red notices for the group, which it called “masters of illusion.” Popescu, 33, had openly said he was “beyond the reach” of the FBI.
“Using forged documents and phony websites, for years Popescu and his criminal syndicate reached across the ocean to pick the pockets of hard working Americans looking to purchase cars,” said United States Attorney Lynch. “They thought their distance would insulate them from law enforcement scrutiny. They were wrong.”
After the 'sellers' reached an agreement with the victim buyers, they would often email them invoices purporting to be from Amazon Payments, PayPal, or other online payment services, with instructions to transfer the money to the U.S. bank accounts used by the defendants.
Romania is considered to be a hotbed of cybercrime.