The owner of a now-defunct Romanian crypto exchange called CoinFlux has pled guilty to laundering roughly $1.8 million in a fraudulent scheme involving fake eBay ads and a car wash.
Vlad-Calin Nistor and 14 other defendants, including the owner of a car wash, have all entered guilty pleas at the Eastern District Court of Kentucky for their involvement in a racketeering conspiracy and cyber fraud scheme that defrauded millions of dollars from U.S. residents by selling goods that didn’t actually exist.
Beginning in 2013, the defendants began posting fake advertisements on sites such as eBay and Craigslist for items such as cars. Often using stolen identities, the group would pretend to be U.S. military personnel who needed to sell their goods before beginning a tour of duty. They even set up a fake call center to assuage any concerns victims had about the advertisements.
After the victim had sent payment, the group would begin the process of transferring the money out of the U.S. and back to Romania. Most of the time, this was done by converting illicit funds into crypto, usually , and transferring it to Nistor and his crypto platform CoinFlux, where it would then be exchanged into the local currency.
Per a from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, the ringleader was Bogdan-Stefan Popescu, the owner of car wash in Bucharest, Romania’s capital. He provided instructions for Nistor and Coinflux for transferring the illicit funds out of bitcoin and into selected bank accounts, which were usually set up under the names of his employees and family members.
“Through the use of digital currencies and trans-border organizational strategies, this criminal syndicate believed they were beyond the reach of law enforcement,” said Michael D’Ambrosio, assistant director at the U.S. Secret Service’s Office of Investigations.