Authorities have arrested more than 20 people in Romania who are suspected of running online fraud schemes, according to media reports.
The Tuesday arrests were confirmed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been working with Romanian officials on cybercrime in recent months. The FBI would say only that the agency is aware of the arrests and because “this is an ongoing matter, we will have no further comment at this time.”
Romanian news reports suggested the number of people arrested there was between 21 and 24. Mediafax.ro reported that the suspects were accused of stealing identities online, in apparent phishing or auction-fraud schemes, and that they had taken US$640,000 from non-Romanians. Several U.S. Web sites, including eBay, were targets of the fraud, according to news reports.
The group’s alleged leader, Romeo Chita, was arrested in an apartment owned by a Romanian lawmaker, Mediafax.ro reported.
Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, applauded the arrests in a blog post Wednesday.
The arrests are “another example of the successful international cooperation” between the U.S. and Romanian law enforcement, he wrote.
“How long is the long arm of the law?” Warner wrote. “It’s at least long enough to reach from eBay headquarters to Romania.”
Warner posted video of three of the arrests on his blog.
In May, U.S. and Romanian authorities announced that 38 people in the two countries had been charged with using complicated Internet phishing schemes to steal thousands of credit and debit-card numbers. Two related phishing schemes had ties to organized crime, the U.S. Department of Justice said then.
Phishing involves sending e-mail messages that look like official correspondence from banks or credit-card vendors in an attempt to get recipients to go to a fake Web site and enter their account numbers.