According to federal prosecutors, from July 2005 through November 2006, Romanian national Roman Teodor participated in a scheme that involved the posting of fraudulent advertisements on eBay and other websites. However, it wasn't Beanie Babies or tchotke that this criminal enterprise was selling online; no, they went big time - they offered expensive vehicles and boats. Of course, the fact that these sellers didn't actually own or possess the stuff was a bit of a problem - not so much for them as for their customers.
If you were one of the unlucky victims to become tantalized by Teodor's online deals and actually indicated an interest in purchasing the items, you would be directly contacted via email from a purported seller. This seller would instruct you to wire transfer payments.
Okay - yeah, I hear you, who the hell in their right mind is going to send some stranger god only knows how many thousands of dollars as a result of a picture posted on some website?
You know what? Good for you and your skepticism. Except there's this one teeny-weeny problem - it seems that Teodor and Associates were counting on folks just like you. They didn't want you to wire money to them, sight unseen. They understood you were concerned about getting ripped off. Hey, you don't know us, we don't know you. We get it. We don't want you to send us your cash without some assurance of delivery and that the goods are the real deal.
This whole transaction is legit.
And here's what sealed the deal. You were told to send your payment to "eBay Secure Traders"
What's eBay Secure Traders you ask? Why it's an escrow account set up by eBay to protect cynical buyers like from online rip-offs. It's set up by eBay. As the name suggests, it's secure. You got nuthin' to worry about. Nuthin' at all. The money stays in the eBay Secure Traders escrow account until the merchandise is delivered to you and after you give the okay following your inspection.
Except, hold on for a sec, let me go back over some of that and clarify it, you know, lemme tell ya the truth!
Despite what you were told by Teodor and his online fraudsters, notwithstanding the name "eBay Secure Traders," this secure account thing was not created by eBay and had absolutely nothing, nada, to do with eBay. Moreover, it sure as hell wasn't secure.
So, some of those sent their bucks to a supposed secure, online escrow account and, bam, those funds were wired directly into bank accounts in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland that were controlled by Teodor's co-conspirators. Controlled by Teodor's co-conspirators as in wave bye-bye to your money and fuggedabout eBay knowing anything all about what you're talking about.
On Jan. 9, 2008, after a run of about one year and after netting some $1.4 million from their U.S. victims, charges were filed against Teodor and five additional defendants:
On Dec. 2, 2009, Ivaylo Vasilev Pletnyov and Nikolay Georgiev Minchev were sentenced to 48 months and 30 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the money laundering conspiracy.
On Oct. 8, 2010, Georgi Boychev Georgiev was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in this scheme.
On April 11, 2011, Georgi Vasilev Pletnyov pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 22, 2011.
Teodor, who voluntarily surrendered to US authorities in April, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering when sentenced in August 2011.