Five Americans will make their initial appearance in the U.S. District Court
in Los Angeles later this month to respond to charges they participated in a
scheme to defraud distributor Ingram Micro out of $10 million worth of computer
The ringleader, Calin Mateias, 24, a computer cracker
Bucharest, Romania, was also indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday.
Going by his online persona, “Dr. Mengele,” Mateias allegedly recruited
Americans in chat rooms to provide U.S. mailing addresses for the Ingram
orders, which were then shipped on to Romania.
“The defendants repeatedly and over the course of four years fraudulently
bypassed Ingram’s password security system, ordered Ingram computer
equipment for shipment to various fictitious people and businesses at
addresses in the United States, and coordinated activities of
co-conspirators in the United States and abroad,” the indictment stated.
As far back as 1999, according to the court documents, Mateias had cracked
into Ingram Micro’s network by stepping around security measures at the
company’s online ordering site and getting equipment shipped to Romania.
When Ingram Micro caught onto the scheme, they cancelled Romanian shipments
in February 1999.
At that time Mateias allegedly recruited Olufemi Tinubu and Tarion Finley in
Georgia, Valeriu Crisoven of Florida, Jeremy Long in Virginia and Warren
Bailey in Alaska, to provide U.S. addresses. Meeting in chat rooms, Mateias
and the five defendants allegedly discussed ways to set up “mail drops,”
where the equipment could be picked up. After receiving the equipment, the
five either sold the equipment and sent the proceeds to Mateias or shipped
the equipment directly on to Romania.
According to officials, Ingram Micro was able to intercept nearly half of
the $10 million in equipment before it was shipped.
Mateias, Tinubu, Finley, Crisoven, Long and Bailey all face one charge of
conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Mateias was also charged with 13 counts of
mail fraud while the others all face lesser mail fraud counts against them.
Mateias, in a separate trial, faces an 11-count fraud indictment with
the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
According to officials at the Department of Justice (DoJ), the case was
handled by the FBI cyber crimes squad,
the Romanian National Police, 14 FBI field offices and the FBI’s legal
attache office in Bucharest.
Brian Hoffstadt, assistant U.S. Attorney at the DoJ, said authorities are
working with the Romanian government to decide whether Mateias will be tried
in Romanian or extradited to the United States to face charges.
“It’s just a decision that hasn’t been made yet — which justice system is
going to prosecute him,” he said.
Hoffstadt said there is still work to be done regarding the sentencing and
fines that will be assessed against the defendants if they should lose their
case. Mateias, if charged in a U.S. court, could get up to 90 years in
prison and fined to repay Ingram Micro as well as other damages. The five
Americans could face between five and 35 year prison sentences if convicted.
More information will become available at the arraignment later this month.
Ingram Micro officials were quick to put out a statement Thursday reassuring
customers of the company’s security measures. Mateias was allegedly able to
set up a fictitious company name, like “T&T Automotors” or “PC Technology
Inc.,” and order equipment from the otherwise secure online ordering Web
“The unfortunate reality is that no company is immune, but we can work
together to prevent and protect our corporations against unlawful acts such
as these — that is why we will remain at the forefront of this
investigation and continue to provide full cooperation to the authorities,”
the statement read.
Officials at the Santa Ana, Calif., company also hint that other
distributors are involved in the fraud investigation, although no other
companies were named in the DoJ account or by Ingram Micro.
Ingram spokeswoman Marie Meoli said the company is not “alone in this
pursuit” and is “working with and on behalf of the IT industry to bring this
matter to justice.”