Romanian Crime Ring Swindled U.S. Consumers on eBay, Craigslist

protecting against cyber crimeA Romanian con artist who helped defraud consumers with fake listings on sites like eBay and Craigslist pleaded guilty before a U.S. District Judge to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy for his role in transferring and hiding the proceeds of an international crime ring.

Adrian Ghighina, a native of Bucharest, the Romanian capital, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois in April 2008 on seven counts of wire fraud. In May 2010, Ghighina was also indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.Ghighina, who has been living legally in the United States since 2004, acted as a "money mule" in an intricate Internet conspiracy, court records say.

Ghighina's co-conspirators, many of whom are based in Romania, created fraudulent online auctions for pricey items such as cars, motorcycles and RVs on websites including eBay, Craigslist and AutoTrader.com.

Victims who fell for the scam and responded to the phony listings were instructed to pay for the non-existent items via Western Union and bank wire transfers to accounts controlled by Ghighina. As Consumer Ally has reported in the past, wire transfer is the method of choice for online scammers, since once it's sent, it's gone for good.

The victims, of course, never received the items they paid for, while Ghighina moved from city to city opening new accounts at various banks using false identification as part of the conspiracy.

From September 2005 until his Miami arrest in October 2009, Ghighina opened accounts and/or received funds in Illinois, the District of Columbia, Florida, New York, Arizona and elsewhere.

Ghighina faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the count of wire fraud from the Chicago indictment, and faces an identical term of imprisonment and fine on the count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud from the Washington indictment.

The Romanian scammer was previously convicted on related charges of wire and visa fraud in the Southern District of Florida and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

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