Two Romanian nationals are facing wire fraud and identity fraud charges for their roles in a $150,000 Internet auction scheme.
According to a 10-count indictment returned Friday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, Teodor Manolache, 29, and Leontin Salageanu, 26, of Northridge, Calif., were involved in organizing bogus auctions for Hurricane Katrina victims.
The two offered items for sale and collected the winning bids, but failed to deliver the products. According to the Department of Justice, the sellers instructed victims to send their payments by Western Union to circumvent online payment systems.
Manolache and Salageanu then went to Western Union locations in the Los Angeles area and, using false identification, collected the money.
The bogus auctions were held on eBay, Yahoo and Autotrader.com.
The indictment charges Manolache and Salageanu with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identity fraud.
Manolache is also charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of identity fraud while Salageanu is charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of identity fraud.
Both defendants are charged with one count of Social Security fraud related to Manolache’s use of Salageanu’s Social Security number when Manolache applied for work at a Beverly Hills restaurant.
The statutory maximum sentences that can be imposed is five years for the conspiracy count, 20 years for each wire fraud count, 10 years for each identity fraud count, and five years for the Social Security fraud count.
Salageanu was arrested Sept. 19 on a criminal complaint and released on bond. He is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 16. An arrest warrant has been issued for Manolache, who previously resided in Northridge and is thought to be in the Miami area.
Between October 2005 and February 2006, the Internet Crime Complaint Center referred 56 incidents of Internet fraud to the FBI where victim buyers were deceived and defrauded by sellers purporting to be collecting money for Hurricane Katrina victim relief.