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 that are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies. The fraudulent email messages ask individuals to click on a hyperlink contained in the email message, which would take the individual to a counterfeit site on the Internet that purports to be the Internet site of the particular bank, financial institution or company. At the counterfeit Internet site, the individual is then asked to enter information such as the individual's name, address and credit or debit card numbers.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in June 2005 a resident of Madison, Conn., contacted the FBI in New Haven about a suspicious email that she had received that purported to be from Connecticut-based People's Bank. The email stated that the recipient's online banking access profile had been locked and instructed the recipient to click on a link to a web page where the recipient could enter information to "unlock" his or her profile. The web page appeared to originate from People's Bank, but, as the investigation revealed, was actually hosted on a compromised computer in Minnesota. Any personal identifying and financial information provided by the individual would be sent by email to individuals in Romania, or to a "collector" account, which was an email account used to receive and collect the information obtained through phishing.
BOCEANU, BOLOVAN and others were part of a loose-knit conspiracy of individuals from Craiova, Romania, and neighboring areas that shared files, tools, and stolen information obtained through phishing. The co-conspirators used and shared a number of collector accounts, which contained thousands of email messages that contained credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, CVV codes, PIN numbers, and other personal identification information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The co-conspirators then used the personal and financial information to access bank accounts and lines of credit and to withdraw funds without authorization, often from ATMs in Romania.
The investigation revealed that BOCEANU was a prolific trafficker of stolen information. He exchanged with a co-conspirator emails that contained numerous credit card numbers that had been obtained through the scheme, and received from another co-conspirator credit card numbers, account user names and passwords, as well as other identifying information of numerous victims. More than 12,000 credit or debit card numbers were found in BOCEANU's email accounts between 2004 and 2009. BOCEANU also purchased a machine used to encode stolen account information on magnetic strips on credit and debit cards.
BOLOVAN was involved in the phishing conspiracy from 2004 through 2007, buying and selling stolen information, harvesting email addresses and spamming. Analysis of BOLOVAN's email accounts revealed more than 1,200 stolen credit or debit card numbers.
In addition to People's Bank, financial institutions and companies targeted by the defendants included Citibank, Capital One, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Comerica Bank, Regions Bank, LaSalle Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo & Co., eBay and PayPal.
This seven-year investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 19 Romanian citizens. On January 18, 2007, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging seven defendants with various offenses stemming from this scheme. On November 10, 2010, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging an additional 12 defendants, including BOCEANU and BOLOVAN.
The first three defendants to face charges were extradited from Bulgaria, Croatia and Canada. BOCEANU, BOLOVAN and six other defendants were extradited from Romania following the ratification in 2010 of an amended treaty on mutual legal assistance between Romania and the United States.
On December 5, 2012, BOLOVAN pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with access devices. On December 11, 2012, a jury found BOCEANU guilty of the same charge, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven, Conn.
Acting U.S. Attorney Daly and Special Agent in Charge Mertz also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the FBI Legal Attaché in Bucharest, Interpol, the Romanian National Police and the United States Marshals Service.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Chang and Sarala Nagala.