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Home Decrypt News Bitcoin Exchange Was a Front for Romanian Mob, Feds Say

Bitcoin Exchange Was a Front for Romanian Mob, Feds Say

In brief

  • A Bulgarian national was convicted for laundering money through Bitcoin.
  • He worked for a Romanian syndicate that defrauded Americans through online auctions.
  • Nearly $5 million in funds were laundered through the RG Coins exchange.

A Bulgarian national has been convicted of laundering nearly $5 million worth of Bitcoin through his cryptocurrency exchange, which served as a front for a Romanian criminal syndicate that defrauded Americans via online auctions.

The United States Department of Justice announced the news this week, with the 53-year-old Rossen Iossifov of Kentucky, formerly of Bulgaria, convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering and another count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The trial lasted two weeks, with sentencing scheduled for January 2021.

According to the department, Iossifov and his co-conspirators took part in a large-scale online auction fraud conspiracy that took in more than 900 American victims. Romanian members of the group posted advertisements on sites such as eBay and Craigslist for high-value items (such as vehicles) that did not exist, took in money, and even set up fake call centers to try and assuage worried and confused victims.

The group also stole the identities of American citizens as part of the conspiracy, and created invoices from reputable-looking companies to try to convince the victims to send payment. At times, the group also crafted “persuasive narratives,” according to the department, such as pretending to be a military member who needed to sell an item before being deployed.

Ultimately, Iossifov was accused of laundering more than $4.9 million worth of Bitcoin through his Bulgaria-based Bitcoin exchange, RG Coins. He was alleged to have done so from September 2015 to December 2018, and to have knowingly exchanged fiat money related to illegal activity.

The Justice Department has heavily pursued this criminal group, with Iossifov now the 17th member to be convicted. Three additional members remain at large as fugitives. More than a dozen members of the group have been extradited from Romania to date.

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