The swindlers adapted again, arranging for payments to be wired to other European countries, where accomplices picked up the cash.A new entry level evolved, people who'd act as couriers and money launderers for a cut of the take.In fact, expensive cars choke the streets of Râmnicu Vâlcea's bustling city center—top-of-the-line BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes driven by twenty- and thirtysomething men sporting gold chains and fidgeting at red lights.
One of the first cases out of the region involved a team based in the neighboring town of Piteşti.One crook would post ads for cell phones; the other picked up the wired money for orders that would never ship.No one really knows how or why those kids started scamming people on the Internet."If you find out, you let us know," says Codruţ Olaru, head of Romania's Directorate for Investigation on Organized Crime and Terrorism.Specialists emerged to occupy niches in the industry, designing fake websites or coordinating low-level confederates.
By 2005, Romania had become widely known as a haven for online fraud, and buyers became wary of sending money there.
Right next door is another luxury car dealership selling a variety of other high-end European rides.
It's as if the sheer magic of wealth has shimmered the glass-and-steel buildings into being.
Eventually, FBI agents in the US and Bucharest started to get interested.
In the early days, the perpetrators weren't exactly geniuses.
Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming. "My English will improve after I have a few beers," he says.