25 with Russian and Eastern European Roots WITH MASSIVE INTERNET WIRE FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING LOOTING THE UNWARY, the NAIVE, THE RICH THROUGH INTERNET ADS

WPCNR FBI WIRE. Special to WPCNR from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. July 31, 2018:

(Editor’s Note: Returning to the Great Northeast,and listening to NPR and Bloomburg at the few radio oases to be found driving up the great eastern seaboard, the themes I heard were how Facebook would recover from their present difficulties with failure to vet Facebook content.

Imagine my surprise when I received the FBI report below this morning. The arrests those pending made by the FBI detailed below show a glaring weakness of websites in general in vetting the credentials of their advertisers not just political posters. The internet is the wild west and it is out to get you. This single ring described below shows how sophisticated unscrupulous cyber criminals have taken advantage of the naivete of consumers in the United States, and the false security of financial institutions that process internet transactions. It is worth noting the nationalities of those charged.)

Co-Conspirators Posted Fake Advertisements for Cars, Tricking Victims Nationwide Into Wiring More Than $4.5 Million

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging Diyora Ashirova, Elvin Baghir-Pur, Kirill Dedusev, Roman Eliozashvili, Sarkhan Imamverdiyev, Mikheil Inadze, Aziza Jalolova, Elvin Javadzade, Igor Kalinitchev, a/k/a “Irvin Kalinitchev,” Tengiz Khukhiashvili, Yelena Kudaibergenova, Mishel Levinski, Stanislav Lisitskiy, a/k/a “Giedrius Girnius,” Aleksei Livadnyi, Durra Mehdiyeva, Mikhail Morozov, Ielyzaveta NAzina, Gocha Paposhvili, Matiss Puke, Ketevan Sepiashvili, Aleksandr Starikov, Igor Stasovskiy, Nikolay Tupikin, Karlis Vitols, and Melvut Yazici with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering.

Editor’s Note: As the roster of those charged indicates below, 17 live in Brooklyn, 4 live in Los Angeles, 2 in Delray Beach (FL) and 2 in Moscow. 7 are described as Russian in nationality; 5 from Georgia(formerly a USSR satellite, 1 from the United States, 4 from Azerbaijan, 3 from Kazakhston, 2 from Latvia, 1 from Turkey.)

Eleven of the defendants were arrested on these charges July 24 in New York.  These defendants were presented and arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan federal court.  BAGHIR-PUR was arrested in Miami and will be there presented.  KHUKIASHVILI is in custody on state charges in Alachua County, Florida, and PUKE and VITOLS are in custody on state charges in Charlevoix County, Michigan.  All three will be transferred to federal custody.  DEDUSEV, ELIOZASHVILI, KUDAIBERGENOVA, LISITSKIY, LIVADNYI, MOROZOV, STARIKOV, and TUPIKIN remain at large.  The case has been assigned to United States District Judge George B. Daniels.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, the defendants participated in a nationwide scheme to defraud, duping victims who responded to fake internet advertisements designed to resemble advertisements posted by legitimate merchants.  Then the defendants allegedly created dozens of shell companies to receive victim payments and withdrew the funds and sent them out of the country.  Thanks to the hard work of the FBI, these defendants will now face prosecution.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Trusting that they were conducting legitimate business with automotive dealers, these victims lost over $4 million as a result of this scheme.  While allegedly operating under this façade, the defendants were diligent in the theft of the funds, but showed no regard to the financial impact on the victims. As shown by the charges brought today, the FBI will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to uncover duplicitous conspiracies, regardless of the vast intricacy of their cover-ups.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment and statements made during court proceedings in this matter[1]:

From November 2016 through July 2018, the defendants carried out a wide-ranging fraudulent scheme that typically involved impersonating legitimate sellers of cars, tricking victims into providing payment for those cars, withdrawing the funds from banks around the country using efforts designed to evade scrutiny, and wiring the proceeds outside the United States.

The fraud most commonly operated as follows: first, co-conspirators impersonated automotive dealers and collectors and claimed to be selling classic cars on various well-known internet auction and trading websites.  Victims responding to the ads were in fact corresponding with a fraud scheme participant.  After the victims and co-conspirators came to terms on a sale price, including down payment and shipping costs, victims were next directed to purported automotive transportation companies and were told that these companies would accept payment and transport the cars.  These companies were in fact shell corporations established by the conspiracy to help perpetrate the fraud, whose corporate bank accounts were established and controlled by the defendants, awaiting wired funds from the fraud’s victims.  After victims had wired payment, the defendants went to the banks to drain the victim’s funds, often starting the same day payment had been transmitted. 

The defendants would draw money from different bank branches in numerous withdrawals on the same day, in denominations that were varied and often kept to an amount they believed would prevent the financial institutions from recording and reporting the fraud. 

The co-conspirators then sent the fraud proceeds outside the United States to Eastern European countries, from where many of the conspirators originated.  Victims never received the goods they believed they had purchased, and many were unable to recover their money or were left paying loans for cars that were never truly for sale.  The defendants’ scheme defrauded victims of more than $4.5 million.

*                      *                      *

Each of the defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  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. The table below lists the name, age, nationality, and residence of each defendant.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, the New York Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.

If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900.  For additional information, go to: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys/victimwitness.html.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey C. Coffman, Thane Rehn, and Matthew J.C. Hellman are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Name

Age

Nationality

Residence

ASHIROVA

27

Kazakhstan Brooklyn
BAGHIR-PUR

24

Azerbaijan Brooklyn
ELIOZASHVILI

44

Georgia Brooklyn
IMAMVERDIYEV

30

Azerbaijan Brooklyn
INADZE

37

Georgia Brooklyn
JALOLOVA

23

Kazakhstan Brooklyn
JAVAZADE

30

Azerbaijan Brooklyn
LEVINSKI

23

United States Brooklyn
KHUKIASHVILI

63

Georgia Brooklyn
KHUDAIBERGENOVA

48

Kazakhstan Brooklyn
KALINITCHEV

62

Ukraine Brooklyn
MEHDIYEVA

23

Azerbaijan Brooklyn
NAZINA

29

Ukraine Brooklyn
PAPOSHVILI

43

Georgia Brooklyn
SEPIASHVILI

64

Georgia Brooklyn
STASOVSKIY

58

Russia Brooklyn
YAZICI

36

Turkey Brooklyn
PUKE

31

Latvia Delray Beach, FL
VITOLS

29

Latvia Delray Beach, FL
DEDUSEV

29

Russia Los Angeles
LISITSKIY

30

Russia Los Angeles
LIVADNYI

39

Russia Los Angeles
TUPIKIN

32

Russia Los Angeles
MOROZOV

29

Russia Moscow
STARIKOV

34

Russia Moscow

[1]   As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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