Suspected cyber-crook to face trial in Cleveland

(Cleveland) - A Romanian national has been returned to Cleveland to face federal charges in an international cyber fraud ring. 

Thirty-eight year old Romeo Chita is accused of running an operation that used malware to steal $4 million by hijacking peoples passwords, bank information, and personal identity information. 

Chita and 8 other suspects have been indicted. Two defendants-Daniel Mihai Radu, 39; and Manuel Tudor, 37, have been extradited from Romania and are awaiting trial in Cleveland. The other five defendants remain at large.

The Cleveland FBI, U.S. Marshal's Service, U.S. Attorney's Office, and Westlake Police spearheaded the investigation. 

“Romeo Vasile Chita allegedly led a multinational criminal enterprise that stole sensitive personal data through deceptive phishing emails and organized fraudulent online auctions, causing millions of dollars in losses to innocent victims,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “The Criminal Division will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, both domestic and international, to aggressively disrupt and dismantle international cyber criminal organizations that victimize our citizens and businesses.”

“This defendant led an international operation that used fraudulent emails and the internet to scam hard-working people out of their savings,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio.  “It is gratifying that this defendant will be forced to answer the charges filed against him.”

According to the indictment, Chita was based in Romania and led a racketeering enterprise that operated in the United States, Romania, Canada, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Bosnia, China, Jordan, Malaysia and elsewhere. 

The goal of the enterprise was to generate money through various criminal acts, including wire fraud, trafficking in counterfeit services, and money laundering.  

Federal prosecutors maintain, it began operating as early as 2007.Among other things, Chita’s group sent “phishing” emails purporting to be from the Better Business Bureau, the IRS, U.S. Tax Court, the National Payroll Records Center, and others. When a victim clicked on a link in a fraudulent email, specialized malware incorporating a “keylogger” was installed onto the victims’ computers, allowing members of the criminal enterprise to capture sensitive and confidential information, including the victims’ bank account information.

Investigators claim the conspirators, including Chita, then transmitted the sensitive information to each other and others for the purpose of fraudulently withdrawing funds from the victims’ bank accounts. The stolen funds were then transferred to specific accounts in the United States, where the money was withdrawn and transferred to other members of the conspiracy. 

Prosecutors say the conspirators used their own network of accounts and “money mules” to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time to conceal the origin of the money.

The defendants also are alleged to have engaged in an extensive campaign of online auction fraud, placing ads for non-existent cars and other expensive items on eBay, Craigslist, Autotrader.com, and other websites.  

According to the indictment, victims were tricked into wiring thousands of dollars to money mules to purchase these vehicles.  The money mules then transferred and laundered the proceeds for the benefit of the enterprise.  

Investigators contend, Chita managed and facilitated the various schemes, as well as directing other conspirators to launder fraudulently obtained money.

(Photos by Ken Robinson/WTAM)

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