Romanian pleads guilty to $2.7 million online auction scam

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A Romanian man has admitted taking part in a scam that netted $2.7 million from online purchasers on auction sites such as eBay, Craigslist and AutoTrader.

Adrian Ghighina, 33, of Bucharest, pleaded guilty yesterday before District Judge Matthew F Kennelly in Chicago to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy.

According to court documents, Ghighina, who entered the US legally in late 2004, acted as a money mule for the fraudsters.  

The group, many of whom are in Romania, created fraudulent online auctions for expensive items such as cars, motorcycles and RVs on auction websites.

'Successful' bidders were directed, in some cases by email or telephone, to pay for the non-existent items using Western Union and bank wire transfers to accounts controlled by

Ghighina. And while many auction sites warn bidders against wiring money because of such scams, it seems plenty of people succumbed to the temptation.   

Ghighina admitted that he moved from city to city opening new accounts at various banks using false identification.
 
From around September 2005 until his arrest in October 2009 in Miami, he opened accounts and received funds in Illinois, the District of Columbia, Florida, New York, Arizona and elsewhere.

The victims, needless to say, never received the items for which they had paid.  

Ghighina will be sentenced in May, and faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000, as well as up to three years of supervised release following any prison term, for each of the two sets of charges.

He's already been convicted on related charges of wire and visa fraud in the Southern District of Florida, and sentenced  to 27 months in prison.