Two men have been sentenced for their role in an organised crime group, that defrauded victims out of at least £1.2 million between January 2016 and August 2017.
Constantin Giba, 24 (24.01.94) of Rodway Road, Reading was sentenced to five years, two months' imprisonment, having previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to convert criminal property and possession of false (Romanian and Slovakian) identity documents.
Robert Popescu, 36 (09.12.81) of Rodway Road, Reading was sentenced to eleven months' imprisonment, having previously pleaded guilty to entering into a money laundering relationship.
Both men were sentenced at Harrow Crown Court on Wednesday, 24 January.
The court heard how both men used fraudulent internet classified advertisements to dupe people around the world into parting with large sums of money for non-existent goods or services. The fraudulent adverts - usually for cars, tractors, holidays and property rentals - were placed on genuine internet classified websites.
A large number of UK bank accounts were set up to masquerade as escrow accounts to receive the proceeds of the fraud from multiple victims. These accounts were set up at high street banks using counterfeit identification documents, such as European Union ID cards, passports and fake utility bills.
Giba registered five fake limited companies in order to obtain over eighteen business bank accounts, through which the funds were laundered. The funds were dissipated and sent onwards to two fraudulently opened foreign currency accounts held at Eurochange. This enabled the fraudulently-obtained funds to be converted into Euros cash.
Popescu acted as a 'stooge' on Giba's behalf, attending a KYC (Know Your Customer) interview with a false Romanian National ID card bearing his photo, in order to open one of the Eurochange exchange services in October 2016.
Giba and Popescu were arrested by officers from FALCON, the Met's response to Fraud and Linked Crime Online at their home address in Reading on 17 August 2017. They were charged and remanded in custody the same day. Giba pleaded guilty on 20 December and Popescu pleaded guilty on 8 January at Harrow Crown Court.
DC Chris Collins of FALCON, the Met's response to Fraud and Linked Crime Online, said: "Giba and Popescu were instrumental in a sophisticated fraudulent enterprise that defrauded victims out of their hard-earned cash. I am pleased that this two men have now received custodial sentences, sending out a message that police and the courts take these crimes very seriously."