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Bulgarian 'stole $350k' from Americans in eBay scam

Whistling down the wire fraud

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A Bulgarian woman has been arrested and charged with participating in a scheme that used eBay to scam Americans out of at least $350,000. Her alleged fraud is similar to dozens of scams found on the auction site daily.

Mariyana Feliksova Lozanova, a.k.a. "Gentiane La France," a.k.a. "Naomi Elizabeth DeBont," was indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a US Department of Justice press release. She was apprehended by law enforcement officials from Budapest, Hungary.

Lozanova, an alleged member of a transnational crime group, stands accused of participating in a scheme to advertise expensive cars, boats and other items for sale on eBay. Prospective buyers were directed to wire payments through "eBay Secure Traders," a sham service designed to persuade victims the sales were legit. In fact, the funds were transferred into bank accounts controlled by Lozanova and her co-conspirators.

Victims who wired money never received the merchandise and never got a refund. Lozanova withdrew the funds shortly after they were wired into her account, which she opened using fake Canadian and UK passports, officials said.

The arrest is sure to be welcome news to critics who claim eBay officials don't do enough to police their site against fraud. But it's also easy to see the arrest as little more than raking leaves on a windy day. Scams like the one Lozanova is accused of furthering are carried out on almost a 24/7 basis. A single search late on Monday afternoon California time, for example, uncovered eight auctions on eBay Motors advertising vintage cars and instructing interested buyers to contact the seller's gmail account. (To be fair, those auctions were removed within 30 minutes.)

Lozanova faces up to 30 years in prison and could be required to pay $500,000 in fines, in addition to forfeitures and restitution to the victims. ®

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