The United States Attorney’s Office charged 25 people last week in connection with a classic car scam ring that allegedly swindled millions of dollars from victims.
“Trusting that they were conducting legitimate business with automotive dealers, these victims lost over $4 million as a result of this scheme,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a news release.
The attorney’s office said the scammers allegedly posed as legitimate classic dealers or collectors between November 2016 and July 2018 and would list a fake car on well-known auction and trading websites.
Once a deal was made for the price of the car, the scammers would tell the victims to contact faux shipping companies who could accept payment for the vehicle and coordinate its delivery.
The companies were allegedly shell corporations created by the scammers.
The scammers would then withdraw the funds from the shell companies. The attorney’s office said the transactions were made in varying denominations from different accounts in an attempt to prevent financial institutions from detecting the fraud.
“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,” Sweeney said.
The money was sent to countries in Eastern Europe, where many of the scammers originated.
Fourteen of the scammers living in New York City were arrested. One was arrested in Miami and another was already in custody on state charges in Florida. Two more were arrested on state charges in Michigan.
Authorities were still seeking seven others – Kirill Dedusev, Roman Eliozashvili, Stanislav Lisitskiy, Aleksei Livadnyi, Mikhail Morozov, Aleksandr Starikov and Nikolay Tupikin. Most of those still at large live in either Los Angeles or Brooklyn. Morozov, 29, and Starikov, 34, live in Russia.
Each alleged scammer will be charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The former charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the latter could lead to 20 years behind bars.
Anyone who feels they were a victim of this scam should call the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at (866) 874-8900.