An international group of Bitcoin scammers with fake car listings on eBay has been apprehended by a joint investigation between the US and foreign law enforcement. According to a report by the US Department of Justice on February 7, 20 people, including 16 foreign nationals were charged for their roles in defrauding American victims millions of dollars through online auction fraud.
The scam scheme
In the DOJ statement, Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said, “The defendants allegedly orchestrated a highly organized and sophisticated scheme to steal money from unsuspecting victims in America and then launder their funds using cryptocurrency.”
The organized crime group defrauded Americans by listing products – usually, cars – on popular online auction platforms like eBay and Craigslist. However, in fact, the items sold to the victims did not exist in real life. The fraudsters listed the help of a few people based in the US as a way of increasing their credibility to their victims.
The US-based associates were in charge of receiving payment once the victims were convinced to pay. The funds were then converted to cryptocurrency, before sending this money to the foreign counterparts, who were predominantly based in Romania.
To convince their victims, the fraudsters often posed to be US military personnel wanting to sell an item quickly, as they were about to be deployed. The scammers also delivered invoices to the victims bearing trademarks of reputable companies to make the transactions appear legitimate.
Scammers under prosecution
According to US Attorney Duncan’s DOJ statement, “[The] prosecution stems from a multi-year investigation initiated in Kentucky led by the US Secret Service, in cooperation with several local, state, federal, and international law enforcement partners.”
At the moment of writing this article, out of 16 non-US people charged, 12 have been extradited to the US and are currently awaiting trials scheduled to take place this year. The indictment declared that these foreign-based fraudsters include Vlad-Călin Nistor, who owns Coinflux Services SRL, and Rossen Iossifov, who owns R G Coins.
The DOJ recognized the efforts of other law enforcement bodies outside the US. As Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles stated, “[The] announcement demonstrates the success of the collaborative efforts of our worldwide network of law enforcement partners.” With the emergence of decentralized technologies, it has become increasingly easier for criminals to run international scams. That is why it is becoming increasingly vital for authorities and regulatory agencies to continue working together to apprehend these criminals and stop crypto-related scams.