Feds Bust Alleged Internet Auto/Boat Sales Scam By Russians

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The U.S. Department of Justice in Los Angeles announced this afternoon that a federal grand jury has indicted six foreign nationals--including one in Costa Mesa--for operating an Internet-based sales scam that allegedly defrauded more than $4.2 million from unsuspecting shoppers since 2007.

According to a DOJ press release, the money laundering conspiracy used eBay Motors, Auto Trader, Yahoo Auto, Edmunds.com, Craigslist and PayPal accounts to collect money from individuals across the nation and then funneled the funds to European accounts without ever delivering a single ordered vehicle, boat, motor home or motorcycle.

"This case demonstrates our ability to track down even the most sophisticated fraud artist who attempted to hide behind false identities and the perceived anonymity of the Internet," United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a prepared statement.

The Costa Mesa Police Department participated in the investigation (along with the U.S. Secret Service, IRS and the Department of Homeland Security) and arrested Sergej Bugaev, 38, a Russian national and Berlin resident. Two of the suspects were captured in Nevada and three others apparently are overseas and haven't yet been apprehended.

Federal agents said the conspirators used sophisticated, legitimate-seeming documents to trick customers.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly


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