Romanian confesses online marketplace scam
February 18, 2011
A Romanian man has admitted being the money mule for an online scam that saw hundreds of people conned out of millions of dollars. Adrian Ghighina, 33, from Bucharest, worked with a team of 11 to trick buyers on online auction sites, such as eBay, AutoTrader and Craigslist, into wiring them money directly.
Ghighina pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme at the Illinois District Court in the US yesterday. He is being charged with bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
The con, which has been earning the gang millions of dollars since it was first set up in 2004, saw online buyers paying for RVs, cars and motorcycles that didn’t exist. The team would insist that the money was wired through Western Union, at which point Ghighina would distribute the cash among his comrades.
A variety of methods were used to persuade buyers that the transaction was genuine, including the hijacking of legitimate sellers’ profiles or the sending of fake “second chance” notices to buyers who had previously lost a sale. Over a thousand people agreed to send money directly to Western Union, despite the fact that online auction sites warn their customers that such demands are often scams.
For his job of collecting and distributing the money, Ghighina would take a cut of up to 40 percent on all cash deposits, most of which amounted to thousands of dollars. He could face a maximum stretch of 20 years behind bars when sentenced on May 9.