Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ION VIOREL IONITOIU, a Romanian national who resided in Spain, was extradited to the United States on bank fraud and money laundering offenses arising from a scheme to launder money derived from an online vehicle sale scam that took in at least $5 million from defrauded consumers.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Ionitoiu is the seventh member of an operation that laundered fraud proceeds for online swindlers who preyed on U.S. consumers who has been charged, and he will now face justice for his actions. This Office is committed to rooting out both those who commit the underlying fraud and their enablers, regardless of where they reside.”
As alleged in the Indictment, and based on other documents filed in court and statements made in court:
From at least March 2019 through at least April 2021, ION VIOREL IONITOIU was an intermediary between co-conspirators who defrauded consumers who were trying to buy vehicles online and a money laundering crew that operated in Brooklyn, New York. Other members of the conspiracy, pretending to represent car dealerships, advertised vehicles that they did not own and were not authorized to sell on fake websites with domain names that sounded like legitimate car dealerships or through online marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay. Victims who responded to those advertisements and negotiated a purchase price were instructed by the purported sellers to wire payment to bank accounts in New York. Unbeknownst to the victims, the accounts were opened at IONITOIU’s direction by co-conspirators who operated in Brooklyn, including KAROL KAMINSKI, STANISLAV TUNKEVIC, ARTURAS GILYS, and SVETLANA VAIDOTIENE. Once the payments cleared, the account owners quickly withdrew the funds before the victims realized they had been defrauded. The victims never received the vehicles they thought they had bought or any refunds from the fake sellers. In total, dozens of victims were defrauded of a total of at least $5 million.
ION VIOREL IONITOIU, 34, a Romanian national and Spanish resident, was extradited to the United States on February 24, 2023. IONITOIU is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000,000, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
KAROL KAMINSKI, 33, STANISLAV TUNKEVIC, 48, and ARTURAS GILYS, 41, all of Lithuania, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. They are scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2023, by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.
SVETLANA VAIDOTIENE, 55, of Lithuania, was sentenced to time-served (10 months and eight days) on January 17, 2023. She was also ordered to forfeit and to make restitution in the amount of $271,000 and has been removed from the United States.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division, the United States Marshals Service, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau for their assistance in this investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Lai is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.