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Romanian Sentenced To Prison For Phishing Scheme

Ovidiu-Ionut Nicola-Roman believed to be the first foreign defendant ever convicted in the United States for phishing

Nora R. Dannehy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that OVIDIU-IONUT NICOLA-ROMAN, 23, of Craiova, Romania, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall in Bridgeport to 50 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for his participation in an Internet "phishing" scheme that stole the identities of numerous individuals in order to defraud several financial institutions and companies. On July 22, 2008, NICOLA-ROMAN pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with access devices.

"The Government believes that this is the first foreign defendant ever convicted in the United States for phishing," Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated. "Identity theft crimes such as phishing wreak financial havoc on those who are victimized, and I want to thank the extraordinary work of the FBI and members of the Computer Crimes Task Force who are working to bring these criminals to justice, no matter where they live."

A phishing scheme uses the Internet to target large numbers of unwary individuals, using fraud and deceit to obtain private personal and financial information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Phishing schemes often work by sending out large numbers of counterfeit e-mail messages, which are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies.

According to documents filed with the Court and statements made in court, this matter stems from a citizen's complaint concerning a fraudulent e-mail message made to appear as if it originated from Connecticut-based People's Bank. In fact, the e-mail message directed victims to a computer in Minnesota that had been compromised, or "hacked," and used to host a counterfeit People's Bank Internet site. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the individuals had engaged in similar phishing schemes against many other financial institutions and companies, including Citibank, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Comerica Bank, Wells Fargo & Co., eBay and PayPal.

According to information provided to the Government by just one of the victim banks, the scheme resulted in losses of approximately $150,000.

NICOLA-ROMAN and six other Romanian citizens were charged in an Indictment returned by a federal grand jury in New Haven on January 18, 2007 in connection with this scheme. NICOLA-ROMAN was located in Bulgaria and arrested on an Interpol warrant on June 6, 2007. He was extradited to the United States on Nov. 8, 2007. The other defendants are still being sought by law enforcement.

This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Connecticut Computer Crimes Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Chang of the U.S. Attorney Offices Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Unit.

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