After an investigation of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a federal grand jury in Buffalo has indicted a number of 32 individuals. They’re all accused of participating in an international loan fraud scheme that earned them around $2.7 million (2.1 million EUR).
Besides the 32 suspects charged in a 62-count indictment, there is another one that was charged via criminal complaint. All of them are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
Ten of them have been arrested, the rest of them still being at large.
According to court documents, the defendants – based in the US and Canada - owned a number of shady websites that offered unsecured personal loans. They made a profit by convincing victims to deposit an initial payment via Western Union.
Of course, the unsuspecting individuals would never receive their loans and until they realized that they were defrauded, the crooks dumped the old websites and created new ones.
Since the operation started back in 2005, the fraudsters tricked 2,000 people into handing over their money.
If found guilty, the suspects could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison for each charge and may be forced to pay fines of up to $250,000 (197,000 EUR).
“This case demonstrates the real-world threats that continue to be present in the on-line domain. Here, potential loan applicants were misled by Internet advertising and the clever creation of fictitious companies with names similar to those with proven track records,” US Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said.
“Customers of all types should be reminded that when dealing with anyone on-line – whether to purchase goods, or to provide personal or financial information about yourself – it is especially important to do your homework. Do not rely solely on online advertisements or emails, ask questions, and do not be pressured.”