From Romania With Love: Online Shopping Scam

June 30, 2011

According to federal prosecutors, Adrian Ghighina, 33, of Bucharest, Romania, legally entered the United States legally in late 2004. That may well be the last use of the term "legally," when it comes to describing Ghighina's stay on our shores.  Once here, he acted as a "money mule" in a complex Internet fraud conspiracy, many of the co-conspirators were Romanian. In furtherance of this conspiracy, fraudulent online auctions were created on sites such as eBay, Craigslist and for expensive items such as cars, motorcycles and recreational vehicles.

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Victims who responded to these fraudulent listings were directed, in some cases by email or telephone, to transmit payment using Western Union and bank wire transfers to accounts controlled by Ghighina. To add insult to injury, the victims were paying for non-existent items and, of course, they would never receive what they had purchased.

From approximately September 2005 until his arrest in October 2009 in Miami, Ghighina moved from city to city, opening new accounts at various banks using false identification, thereby opening accounts and/or receiving funds in Illinois, the District of Columbia, Florida, New York, Arizona and elsewhere.

Indicted and Sentenced

Ghighina was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois in April 2008 on seven counts of wire fraud. In May 2010, Ghighina was separately indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering. 

Ghighina faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the count of wire fraud from the Chicago indictment, and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud from the Washington indictment. Both counts also include up to three years of supervised release following any prison term.

Previously, Ghighina was convicted on related charges of wire and visa fraud in the Southern District of Florida and sentenced on those charges to 27 months in prison.

Ghighina pleaded guilty in February 2011 to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy.

On June 29, 2011, Ghighina was sentenced in federal court in Chicago to 48 months in prison.  The sentence resolves the two separate indictments against Ghighina in the Northern District of Illinois and in the District of Columbia.
The sentence runs concurrently with Ghighina's 27-month sentence in his Florida case, for which he has already served 21 months in prison.

Also see, Ebay Secure Traders (It Ain't eBay or secure) ("Street Sweeper," June 10, 2011)