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The U.S. Justice Department has announced that Romanian nationals Cristea Mircea, 30, Ion Pieptea, 36, and Nicolae Simion, 37, were recently extradited to the United States from Romania.
The three are charged with participating in a multi-million dollar cyber fraud scheme targeting customers of U.S.-based online marketplaces.
Mircea, Pietpea and Simion allegedly "saturated" Internet marketplaces such as eBay.com, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and CycleTrader.com with ads for non-existent cars, motorcycles, boats and other high-value items priced between $10,000 and $45,000. To trick victims into buying the items, they sent potential buyers fraudulent certificates of title and links to fake Web sites for dealerships that they claimed held the vehicles.
Once a purchase was agreed upon, the victims were sent fake invoices from Amazon Payments, PayPal, or other online payment services, which actually directed the money to people in the U.S. known as "arrows." The arrows then forwarded the funds to the defendents, either by wire transfer or by other means -- in one case, the arrows allegedly sent Pieptea $18,000 in cash hidden inside audio speakers.
The defendents allegedly stole more than $2 million from victims using these methods. Each of the three defendants is charged with conspiracy to commit substantive offenses against the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering -- each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
"The defendants' extraditions to the United States should make clear that our efforts to protect Internet consumers do not stop at our borders," stated United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement.