Member of Romania-Based Internet Fraud Ring Indicted for Wire Fraud for Scheme Falsely Advertising and Selling Boats and Vehicles on the Internet
More Than $1 Million Stolen from Victims; Conspirators Use Well-Known Internet Company Names to Lull Their Victims
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 15, 2013|
A member of a scheme to scam prospective purchasers of cars, boats, and RVs by using false Internet postings and fake payment processing programs was arrested in New York on July 22, 2013, when he tried to enter the U.S. from Romania, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Juan Carlos de la Cruz Piote, 47, a native of Spain, and his co-schemers opened multiple bank accounts in the Western District of Washington, which were used to accept funds from victims who thought they were using a secure payment method to purchase vehicles advertised on the Internet. In fact, the advertised vehicles—luxury cars, boats, or RVs—were never delivered, and the money was quickly wired out of the country or withdrawn from the accounts as cash. De la Cruz Piote will be transported to the Western District of Washington for arraignment on the indictment returned on August 14, 2013.
According to records filed in the case, de la Cruz Piote and other co-schemers opened multiple bank accounts using various foreign passports and identities. The conspirators set up the accounts with business names such as GMC Autos LLC, Cars Consultants LLC, Auto Financial LLC and MGA Engines LLC. The conspirators would advertise various luxury cars, boats, and recreational vehicles on the Internet on legitimate websites such as Craigslist or Autotrader.com. The conspirators would correspond with potential purchasers using false names. When the purchaser was interested in buying one of the luxury vehicles, the schemers would have them wire funds to one of the business bank accounts claiming it was an “escrow account” that would hold the funds until the purchaser received the vehicle. The conspirators would create counterfeit PayPal paperwork and web pages or would have the victims make the payment through a service they created and called “Amazon Payments”—but the service was in no way associated with Amazon.com. The use of these names was a way to lull the purchasers into thinking they were dealing with a legitimate online seller.
The indictment alleges that between February and August 2011, the conspirators took in more than $940,000, and from one bank account alone quickly made multiple withdrawals totaling more than $100,000.
One member of the ring has already pleaded guilty to wire fraud. In September 2012, Emilian Madalin Nita was sentenced to 42 months in prison.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The cases were investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Reese Jennings.