July 17, 2011

Over 100 Arrested In US, Romanian Internet Fraud Bust

Law enforcement officials from the US and Romania have teamed up to arrest more than 100 people in what is being called a year-old effort to curb online fraud schemes.

According to Reuters, Justice Department officials announced the arrests on Friday.

The schemes, they say, involved Romanian citizens pretending to be American and posting advertisements on popular websites such as eBay and Craigslist. Reuters said that those ads would promise a big-ticket item such as a boat or a car, promising delivery after funds were wired to them. The money would then be retrieved by "arrows" or middlemen using fake identities, who would in turn wire the money to Romania--minus a small percentage in commission.

The Justice Department told the wire service that the fraud schemes cost US citizens more than $100 million over the past 18 months, and that "arrows" had been arrested in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Texas and charged with wire fraud or related charges.

According to BBC News, a July 14 raid by police in Romania led to approximately 90 arrests.

"Police searched more than 110 houses in nine cities," the British news agency reported. "They believe an organized crime gang with a broad network posted false adverts for goods such as cars, motorbikes, boats and electronics."

Officials told the BBC that an estimated 1,000 shoppers had fallen victim to the scam.

"This type of fraud--failure to deliver promised merchandise in Internet sales--was the most common form of Internet fraud last year, according to FBI data in the 2010 Internet Crime Report," Reuters reporter Diane Bartz said on Friday.

"An ongoing Internet fraud scheme conducted by several networks of organized cyber criminals in Romania and the United States has been disrupted as a result of a series of law enforcement actions coordinated since 2010 between Romanian and U.S. law enforcement, including numerous arrests and searches that took place yesterday in Romania," the Justice Department said in a statement Friday.

"Over the last 10 years, U.S. law enforcement authorities have strengthened ties with Romanian law enforcement authorities to address the rising threats posed by Romanian-based organized cyber criminal networks.   To date, hundreds of defendants have been arrested and charged in the United States, Romania, and other countries as a result of this cooperation," they added.


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