US officials said Wednesday they had taken down a global cyberfraud ring and charged six Romanians and one Albanian in a scheme selling non-existent goods on the Web.
The Justice Department said the scheme, which netted an estimated $3 million, used ads on Internet marketplace websites including eBay, Cars.com and others for automobiles, motorcycles, boats and other high-value items, priced in the $10,000 to $45,000 range.
The fraud enabled the defendants to collect money after sending fake certificates of title and other information to buyers.
Arrests were made at the request of the United States in Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic and Romania, the Justice Department said. Extradition requests are pending.
A criminal complaint unsealed in New York charged Romanian nationals Emil Butoi, 34; Aurel Cojorcaru, 43; Nicolae Ghebosila, 43; Cristea Mircea, 30; Ion Pieptea, 36; and Nicolae Simion, 37; along with Albanian national Fabian Meme, 42, each with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and other charges.
One of the cases involved a "seller" who pretended to be the widow of an Iraq war veteran who was selling her family's mobile home so that she could care for her children, the complaint said.
In other cases, victims were duped into sending tens of thousands of dollars for non-existent vehicles, motorcycles, boats or motor homes.
"As a result of extensive cooperation between US and European law enforcement officials, the defendants have been charged with a scheme to defraud unsuspecting Americans of millions of dollars," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
"The Department of Justice is committed to finding and prosecuting Internet fraud aggressively, wherever it happens and however hard the perpetrators work to conceal their crimes."
Butoi, Cojorcaru, Ghebosila, Mircea, Pieptea and Simion were arrested Wednesday. Meme has been in custody in the Czech Republic.
Officials said some of the defendants were also charged with passport fraud. They produced high-quality fake passports so that foreign national co-conspirators in the United States could open American bank accounts to accept funds.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy counts, and 10 years in prison for passport fraud conspiracy.
Explore further: Supreme Court allows challenge to Colorado Internet tax law