A U.S. court found a Bulgarian national and owner of a Bitcoin exchange guilty for his role in an international fraud scheme that lured at least 900 Americans into purchasing online items that didn’t exist, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Rossen Iossifov, 53, was convicted of racketeering and money laundering conspiracies, becoming the seventeenth person to be convicted in the United States in connection to the scheme. Three are still at large.
Working with Romanian colleagues, Iossifov stole at least US$5 million by posting “false advertisements to popular online auction and sales websites — such as Craigslist and eBay — for high-cost goods (typically vehicles) that did not actually exist,” the DOJ explained.
“Members of the conspiracy would convince American victims to send money for the advertised goods by crafting persuasive narratives, for example, by impersonating a military member who needed to sell the advertised item before deployment,” it said.
The fraudsters created fictitious online accounts to post the fake advertisements and communicate with victims, often using the stolen identities of Americans to do so. To make the transactions appear legitimate, they delivered invoices bearing trademarks of reputable companies and set up call centers, impersonating customer support, the statement said.
Iossifov’s role was to launder the group’s money using cryptocurrency exchanges. He was the owner of a Bulgaria-based Bitcoin exchange, RG Coins, and exchanged Bitcoins into local currency on behalf of the group, knowing that they were proceeds of illegal activity., the DOJ said.
“According to trial testimony, for example, in just the span of about two and a half years, Iossifov exchanged over $4.9 million worth of Bitcoin for just four other members of the criminal enterprise,” the statement said.