March 1 2017
Federal indictments unsealed today in Washington, D.C., charged 19 people in the U.S. and abroad with participating in various international fraud and money laundering conspiracies that resulted in the theft of more than $13 million from more than 170 victims, primarily in the U.S.
“Unfortunately, honest individuals with hard-earned money to spend and enterprising businesses—two essential elements in our global marketplace—were the main targets for these criminals.”
Andrew Vale, assistant director in charge, FBI Washington Field Office
Seventeen of those individuals have been taken into custody—some in the U.S. and some overseas—and two remain at large. The Bureau is working with our foreign counterparts to locate and apprehend the two fugitives.
The multi-agency investigation—led by the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Treasury—involved a number of other federal agencies and international partners abroad joining together to target multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering schemes committed by a transnational organized crime network. This particular case resulted in four indictments involving interrelated online vehicle fraud and business e-mail compromise (BEC) schemes along with unlicensed money transmitting and international money laundering.
The investigation began in 2011, when the Bureau’s Washington Field Office received information about abandoned property in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. From that, the FBI was able to link the recovered evidence to a transnational organized crime operation involving an online vehicle fraud scheme.
As part of the online vehicle fraud scheme, a network of individuals in Europe allegedly advertised cars for sale on various websites. When car buyers wired the money to the purported sellers’ bank accounts in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, other co-conspirators who had traveled to the U.S. and opened bank accounts using counterfeit identification documents immediately withdrew the money, laundered it, and then sent it to their associates in Europe. And of course, the buyers never received the vehicles they paid for, but the criminals were able to line their pockets with more than $3 million. Eight defendants were indicted in this scheme.