19 People Indicted For Money Laundering, CEO Scams, Imaginary Car Scams

Image courtesy of Rusty Clark

Have you ever wondered about the people who lurk behind scam emails asking for mysterious wire transfers, or who post ads for suspiciously cheap cars that never materialize after the buyer sends a payment? Today, the Department of Justice outed a few of these unscrupulous types, indicting 19 people for allegedly laundering money and perpetrating a variety of international financial scams.

A total of 16 suspects were arrested in five countries — the U.S., Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and Israel — to answer for alleged crimes that occurred between 2010 and 2016. One suspect was already in custody, leaving two still at large.

Law enforcement was reportedly able to able to return to the victims — or stop mid-transaction — $56 million in funds, but the people indicted were responsible for $13 million in fraudulent payments from over 170 victims.

The portfolio of scams they’re accused of running is diverse, and includes:

Fake vehicle scams. The perpetrators of this scam allegedly listed imaginary vehicles for sale, getting prospective buyers through the whole sale process and, of course disappearing after withdrawing money sent through a wire transfer from their accounts.

Business Email Compromise scams. We’ve also referred to this as the CEO scam or boss scam. Someone impersonating the boss over email asks a midlevel employee to initiate a wire transfer that is not to an actual vendor of the company. The fake boss might emphasize the secrecy of the transaction to discourage the targeted employee from checking with anyone else before sending the cash.

Money Laundering. Ill-gotten money has to be made legitimate, and people who are part of this alleged conspiracy have been accused of using an informal money-transfer (hawala) system to move cash around, and also engaging in other money laundering activity.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.