Authorities in the U.S. have reportedly charged some 19 people with crimes, including money laundering and wire fraud, according to the United States Attorney’s office.
On Wednesday, police in the U.S., Hungary, Bulgaria and Israel reportedly arrested 17 individuals in connection with a money laundering scheme that led to more than $13 million in losses from over 170 victims. The arrests, coordinated by the FBI, follow a multi-year investigative effort by U.S. and international law enforcement agencies targeting multi-million dollar, transnational fraud and money laundering schemes.
“These indictments and today’s arrests followed an international investigation into an interconnected web of money launderers, fraudsters and individuals that aided and abetted their criminal activities,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips in a statement. “The defendants in the cases being unsealed today are accused of taking part in schemes in the United States and abroad, costing victims millions of dollars.”
Twelve of the alleged fraudsters are accused of online vehicle fraud and business email compromise. Six are charged with conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, while an Israeli citizen was arrested and charged with international money laundering conspiracy.
Authorities believe eight of the accused ran one scheme where they posted ads online advertising cars under market value to lure customers, who would make a deposit. The fraudsters would then disappear with the money and transport it in bulk to a network of launderers in Europe, authorities said.
Four of the accused are also believed to have scammed unnamed German and Portuguese companies out of millions of dollars in phony transactions in 2014 and 2015. The four were able to do so by using fake email addresses to impersonate corporate executives, instructing employees to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The latter scheme is similar in nature to the W-2 email phishing scam currently circulating around businesses in the U.S.