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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EBay Scammers Lose Bid for Sentence Reduction

CHICAGO (CN) - Two Romanian nationals who helped operate a multi-million-dollar fraud using online auction sites will not receive shorter sentences, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Raimondoray Cerna and Marian Alexandru lived in the United States illegally, working as domestic agents for an international fraud scheme, which used online auction houses to lure victims.

Individuals located in Romania would pose as American sellers on eBay and other auction sites while a co-schemer would bid on the fabricated listing and "win" the item. After the auction ended, the seller would contact a legitimate bidder, telling him that the auction winner had backed out and offer to sell the items.

Victims would send payment via wire transfer to co-schemers in the United States, including Cerna and Alexandru, who used fake identification to pick up the payments. These participants would keep a percentage and send the remaining funds to Romania. Victims would never receive the goods.

Cerna oversaw operations in Chicago, Michigan, and South Florida, obtaining fraudulent documents to facilitate the fraud. In exchange, he received a larger share. Alexandru worked beneath Cerna, picking up wire transfers and sending money abroad.

Over two-and-a-half years the scheme defrauded approximately 2,000 victims of over $6,000,000 dollars.

Cerna and Alexandru were arrested in Southern Florida in 2005. Cerna had previously been convicted of fraud and deported but reentered illegally using a fake passport. Both were charged with illegal reentry and multiple counts of wire fraud.

After various sentencing enhancements and reductions were applied, the court calculated a fourteen to seventeen-year guidelines range for Cerna. Alexandru pled guilty and was received a seven to nine-year guidelines calculation.

Cerna and Alexandru both appealed, arguing, among other things, that prosecutorial delay should result in a reduced sentence. The pair had been in custody since September 2005, but neither was indicted until 2007.

But the 7th Circuit rejected that the argument as waived because neither plaintiff raised the issue at the district court level. The court dismissed all other challenges to the guidelines calculation as well.

Cerna and Alexandru were sentenced to fifteen years and seven years, respectively.

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