Nicolae Popescu, wanted by the FBI
Seven eastern European "masters of illusion" have been charged with conning people on eBay to pay for cars that did not exist in a scam that netted them $3 million (£1.8 million).
The FBI has issued a wanted poster for 33-year-old Romanian Nicolae Popescu, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and also issued 'red notice' international arrest warrants for the five other Romanians and Albanians who are believed to be members of the gang.
"They siphoned funds from victims to fuel their greedy desires and created false identities, fake websites and counterfeit certificates of title in order to make the scheme more convincing," said FBI Assistant Director, George Venizelos.
"Popescu and his co-conspirators were masters of illusion, but they can't escape their ultimate reality.
"With the help of our law enforcement partners at home and abroad, we will bring them to justice."
The FBI recorded a telephone conversation in which Popescu boasted of being "beyond the reach" of US authorities.
The gang also conned users of websites including Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, and CycleTrader.com into purchasing cars, boats, motorbikes and luxury goods priced between $10,000 (£6,150) and $40,000 (£24,700).
They even set up fake US autodealers, complete with fabricated websites, to lure their victims.
The gang would send those they had reached a purchase agreement with fake invoices from Amazon Payments, PayPal, or other online payment services, instructing them to transfer the money into US bank accounts they had set up with fake US passports.
An eBay spokesperson said: "We have partnered with law enforcement to alert consumers about the type of scams described in the indictment - which involve exploiting well-known, trusted brand names like eBay to attract consumers and then lure them on to fake websites and into fraudulent transactions.
"Auto shoppers can be confident in their purchase by ensuring they start and complete their transactions on eBay Motors and never use money wire services to send payments."
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