Woodford men jailed for part in £1m online fraud gang
PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 February 2018
A Woodford Green man who masterminded a counterfeit ID factory and carried out a £1 million online fraud has been jailed along with his accomplices.
Mihai Cirstoiu, 37, of Ray Lodge Road in Woodford, who was in charge of the scam, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and money laundering on July 28, last year.
Today (Friday, February 16) he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
Dragoz Dragomir, 34, previously of Southmead Crescent in Cheshunt was also sentenced to seven years and six months imprisonment after being found guilty on 14 December 2017 of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder, possession of fake ID documents and possession of equipment adapted for making fake ID documents.
The fraud involved hundreds of fake adverts for non-existent goods and services being placed on legitimate classifieds websites, such as eBay.
Over a hundred bank accounts were set up at high street banks to receive money from the fraud.
These accounts were set up using counterfeit EU National ID cards, passports and utility bills produced by Dragomir.
Two ‘foot soldiers’ who opened the bank accounts and withdrew the money from ATMs around the country, were also sentenced today - one of which was also from South Woodford.
• George Cerneanu, 25, of no fixed abode, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and possession of false ID documents on July 18, 2017 and today was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment.
• Georgian Alexandru Stanciu, 27, of Onslow Gardens, Woodford previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and possession of false ID documents on July 28, 2017 and today was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment.
• Maria Bilici, 33 of Hunters Ride, Bricket Wood, St Albans, was found guilty of conspiracy money launder, money laundering and fraud on December 15, 2017 and was sentenced today to a total of four years imprisonment.
Dragomir, a Romanian national, was arrested on June, 28, 2017, and was found to be wanted under a European Arrest Warrant issued in Romania for fraud convictions in 2007.
Dragomir was living under the false name of Andrei Bernath and renting office space in Gorray House, Great Cambridge Road, Enfield.
Police searched the premises and discovered a fake ID ‘factory’ with multiple printers and computers set up to mass-produce fake identification documents.
Sample ID cards used to advertise his services were also found, including an image on a mobile telephone of a ‘mocked up’ UK driving license bearing the image of former British Prime Minster, David Cameron.
Co-defendants George Cerneanu and Georgian Alexandru Stanciu were issued with Dragomir’s fake ID by Mihai Cirstoiu and sent to towns all over the UK including Birmingham, Liverpool and Ipswich to open bank accounts and ‘cash out’ fraudulent monies.
Cerneanu was arrested when attempting to withdraw money from an account held at Santander in Liverpool in June.
Stanciu was arrested at his home address a month later.
Maria Bilici was convicted for her role in laundering the proceeds of the fraud.
In 2017, Bilici began trying to sell her assets including her house and a Range Rover car.
She also fraudulently obtained a £25k loan which was encashed and sent overseas – described by the sentencing judge as ‘one last roll of the dice in this jurisdiction’.
Bilici had intended to leave the UK for good but was arrested on July 5, 2017, before the contract of the sale of the house could be signed.
DC Chris Collins from FALCON, the Met’s response to Fraud and Linked Crime Online, said: “I am pleased with today’s sentencing.
“Members of an organised criminal network that ran a sophisticated scam defrauding hundreds of victims have been imprisoned for a significant period.”
“Dragomir was an enabler of serious crime whose products are likely to have helped others net millions of pounds from fraud and evade immigration control.
“I am sure the arrest of Dragomir has helped to disrupt other criminal networks.
“Dragomir was a professional forger specialising in counterfeit Romanian, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Slovakian, Austrian and Italian National Identity Cards, UK driving licenses and Italian passports.
“He also made fake utility bills and wage slips.”
“I would advise anyone shopping online to pay within the official payment mechanism in use by the website. Do not transfer money directly to a bank account – you will not be protected.”
Police are appealing for information into the whereabouts of Mr Sebastian Dumitru Ilie.
Ilie is Romanian-born but became a naturalised British Citizen in 2015.
He is thought to be in continental Europe and could be using a false identity.
A European Arrest Warrant has been issued which is valid in any EU country.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their website at http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
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