The thieves used Mercedes-Benzes, Porsches, Teslas and 1960s Dodges, and Chevrolets as bait to steal money from automotive enthusiasts
Ten people were arrested this week after posing as car dealers and collectors with vehicles for sale online. U.S. Federal Prosecutors said that the targets were people looking for muscle cars and higher end makes online, before they were taken for ride by the group of international con artists.
The group was position in the United States, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania, according to the procurators who announced the charges. “The defendants’ once-lucrative joyride is over,” U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, said in a statement on Wednesday.
So how did they run this scam? Basically, feeding on the hopes of car buyers, and pretending to sell them their dream car. They would first setup a fake online persona, posing as a car dealer or private owner with a car collection, and then would post with their fake profiles on well-known online auction sites.
Once a buyer would show interest in their listing, the crooks would negotiate the sale, come to an agreement on the price with the buyer, request down payments and shipping cost, and asked buyers to pay the transportation companies to ship their car. However, the cars never showed up.
The companies which received the funds were established as shell corporations that enabled the scammers to immediately withdraw payments before the victims realized there was no chance of them getting the car. When the targets caught on that something was wrong, they were unable to recover their money, and then were stuck with having to repay the loans they got to buy the vehicles that never existed.
There’s no word on how long this went on, or exactly how many people are victimized by the group. Considering the cars mentioned, the amount stolen is likely staggering. If the defendants are convicted, they could be locked behind bars for as much as 30 years - let’s hope no one let’s them near a computer during that time.