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3/27/2007
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FBI: Member Of Transnational Crime Ring Arrested In eBay Fraud

Bulgarian woman faces 30 years in prison for allegedly conspiring in an "elaborate scheme" to defraud eBay users of $350,000.

A woman described by the FBI as a Bulgarian member of a transnational criminal ring has been arrested in connection with what the government is calling an "elaborate scheme" to defraud eBay users of more than $350,000.

Mariyana Feliksova Lozanova is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The woman, who also goes by the names Gentiane La France and Naomi Elizabeth DeBont, allegedly tricked prospective buyers on eBay to wire her money for major purchases, like motor vehicles and boats, that were never delivered, according to a release from the FBI, which investigated the case.

If convicted, the woman faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and 10 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy. In addition, she also could be required to pay fines totaling more than $500,000, as well as forfeitures and restitution to the victims of the scheme.

A grand jury in the District of Columbia returned the indictment March 1, but it remained sealed until Lozanova was arrested in Budapest on March 22. She has waived extradition to stand trial in the United States.

According to the FBI, Lozanova and others in the "crime group" allegedly participated in a scheme to advertise the expensive merchandise for sale on eBay. When potential buyers from the United States showed an interest, they were contacted directly by e-mail from the purported seller. The victims were then instructed to wire transfer payments through eBay Secure Traders, which has no actual affiliation with eBay. The FBI contends it was a ruse to persuade the victims that they were sending money into a secure escrow account pending delivery and inspection of their purchases. Instead, the victims' funds were allegedly wired directly into one of several bank accounts, controlled by Lozanova and her co-conspirators, in Hungary or Slovakia.

The cars and boats the victims intended to purchase were never delivered and the victims' money was never returned. Lozanova allegedly withdrew the proceeds shortly after the funds had been wired into her account and distributed them to other members of the criminal group in Budapest, according to the FBI statement.

Lozanova allegedly opened the accounts using a fraudulent Canadian passport and a U.K. passport, which falsely identified her as Gentiane LaFrance and Elizabeth Naomi DeBont, respectively, the FBI reported.

"This arrest is an excellent example of the strong cooperation between the FBI and Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation to stem Eurasian organized crime," FBI Assistant Director Chip Burrus said in a written statement. "Since April 2000, the FBI-HNBI Organized Crime Task Force has worked closely to investigate transnational enterprises headquartered in this historic Central European center of commerce and finance."

The Budapest Task Force was established by the FBI in April 2000 in an effort to deal with the increasing threat of Eurasian organized crime groups to the United States.

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