Monday, December 10, 2012

A Romanian man and a Russian woman have pleaded guilty to participating in an Internet scam

A Romanian man and a Russian woman have pleaded guilty to participating in an Internet scam that offered non-existent automobiles for sale and caused victims from across the United States to suffer losses of more than $4 million.
Corneliu Weikum, 38, a Romanian national who resides in the Federal Republic of Germany, and Yulia Mishina-Heffron, 24, of Russia, each pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to two counts – one involving smuggling bulk cash out of the United States, and another involving a plot to commit wire and bank fraud.
Weikum and Mishina-Heffron pleaded guilty pursuant to cases brought by the United States Attorney’s Offices in Los Angeles (which included the conspiracy count) and Las Vegas (which included the bulk cash smuggling count).
According to court documents, between May 2007 and November 15, 2010, Weikum and Mishina-Heffron participated in a scheme operated out of Romania that advertised cars and other vehicles for sale on websites that included eBay Motors, Auto Trader, Yahoo Auto,, and Cragslist. After negotiating with members of the conspiracy in Romania, victims of the scam were instructed to deposit the money for the cars into bank accounts established at the direction of Weikum and Mishina-Heffron. Associates withdrew the money and gave it to Weikum and Mishina-Heffron, who would then smuggle the money out of the United States in the form of cash and wire transfers.

On October 22, 2009, more than $1 million was seized from Weikum’s luggage at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. On March 10, 2010, law enforcement seized $20,000 stuffed into stereo speakers that Mishina-Heffron had attempted to ship to Germany.
The charges to which the defendants pleaded guilty carry a maximum statutory sentence of 35 years imprisonment. However, the defendants have entered into binding plea agreements that call upon the court to sentence Weikum to 97 months in federal prison and Mishina-Heffron to 70 months imprisonment. As part of their plea agreements, the defendants forfeited over $1.2 million in cash and agreed to pay restitution to the victims of the crimes.

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