A money launderer tied to a Romanian fraud network that scammed money from Kentucky residents has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after he was held responsible for laundering more than $3.5 million for the scammers, the U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this month.
Ionut-Razvan Sandu, 35, of Romania, received his prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), according to the DOJ. Four other defendants from Romania pleaded guilty to the same charge between Nov. 16 and 18. They received prison sentences of more five years, the DOJ said.
Sandu was tied to the Alexandria Online Auction Fraud Network, described in federal court documents as a group of scammers who pretended to sell cars online via Amazon, AutoTrader, eBay and the like with official-looking documents to prove it. The DOJ said the scam began in October 2014 and involved multiple co-conspirators in Romania and the United States.
The network would get money by posting false advertisements online and lure the attractions of customers, according to the DOJ. The scammers used several tactics to pull off the scam, including sending invoices with trademarked logos to victims, pretending to be military members needing to sell their vehicle before deployment and creating a call center to impersonate customer support.
In 2014, the illicit syndicate employed an anonymous individual in Kentucky who laundered the money for the criminals who lived thousands of miles away, according to investigators.
The Kentuckian was confronted about his involvement, and converted into a confidential source by investigators, which helped accumulate evidence while the informant cleaned millions of dollars with an end game of dozens of arrests.
Sandu and other U.S.-based launderers received the funds, converted them into cryptocurrency and sent that to foreign-based money launderers, according to the DOJ. It’s believed that Sandu has been held responsible for laundering over $3.5 million worth of fraudulent proceeds, according to the DOJ.
Nine-hundred victims are believed to have been involved in the scam, according to the DOJ. Prosecutors have charged 28 people over their alleged involvement in the scam and 24 have been sentenced after being convicted.
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