Golders Green crime gang jailed for £450,000 eBay auction scam

Members of the gang from top left clockwise: Christian Calistrache, Mihai Cercerlaru, Florin Drechic

Members of the gang from top left clockwise: Christian Calistrache, Mihai Cercerlaru, Florin Drechichi, Madalin Popescu pictures: City of London Police - Credit: Archant

Members of a Golders Green gang who laundered nearly £450,000 in cash from an “industrial sized” internet auction scam have been jailed for a total of more than 18 years

Roxanna Trusca

Roxanna Trusca

The gang of Romanians offered non-existent cars, vans and caravans for sale on eBay and other auction websites, the Old Bailey heard.

The adverts were linked to fraudulent bank accounts set up using false documents by hundreds of other Romanians the gang brought over to the UK for a few days.

Soon after the prospective buyers had transferred the money, the funds were removed and all lines of communication were cut.

Prosecutor Stephen Hooper said: “This was a sophisticated internet fraud using fake eBay pages.”

False ID documents for the bank accounts and texts about the movement of money were found at a “fake identity making factory” in Finchley Road, near Golders Green.

Roxanna Trusca, 28, Madalin Popescu, 34, Florin Drechichi, 25, Mihai Cercerlaru, 35, and Christian Calistrache, 31, are due to be sentenced on Thursday for their part in the scam.

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The court heard more than £450,000 was washed through accounts, controlled primarily by Popescu who had a key to the Finchley Road address.

Drechici, of Garrick Avenue, Golders Green, and Popescu, of Horseshoe Lane, Watford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to money launder between June 2014 and September 2015.

Cercerlaru, of Woodstock Avenue, Golders Green, Calistrache, of Wykeham Road, Hendon, and Trusca, of no fixed abode all admitted conspiracy to money launder in November last year.

A second charge of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation was left on file for all defendants.

Sentencing the five, Judge Michael Brompton QC, said: “It hardly needs to be said that these were pernicious offences of fraud inflicted on people who were in no position to bear them and caused great anguish.

“I am told that the camper vans offered for sale were particularly attractive to those on the point of retirement.

“They were frequently the subject of the advert and some individuals lost their life savings.

“You five provided an essential and highly-organised service to the fraudsters.”

The judge said it is believed 200 people were flown over from Romania to open 177 bank accounts, with their group laundering at least £450,000.

“I note out of fairness to you those operating the fraud appear to have had access to more than one money laundering team,” the judge continued.

But he added: “I’m perfectly satisfied that each of you had a very significant executive role in this operation.

“None of you was a puppet in the hands of others or a mere courier or a gofor and it was obvious you were colose to the heart of the fraud, working in close cooperation with those who were operating it.”

UK citizen Popescu, who moved to the country from Romania ten years ago, was jailed for five years.

His girlfriend, Trusca, was sentenced to three years and eight months imprisonment,

Cercelaru was jailed for two-and-a-half years, Drechi for three-and-a-half years and Calistrache for three years and seven months.