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Local residents become victims of computer fraud: Suspect arrested, booked for possession of fake indentification
[May 27, 2006]

Local residents become victims of computer fraud: Suspect arrested, booked for possession of fake indentification


(Daily Press (Victorville, CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) May 27--SPRING VALLEY LAKE -- A seven-month investigation revealed three local residents were victims in a large-scale computer theft ring, officials said Thursday.

The investigation began in October 2005 after three unidentified residents purchased a pontoon boat over the Internet from a man who identified himself as Larry Rich. The victims wire transferred more than $7,000 to a Las Vegas Western Union but never received the boat.

A deputy from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Victor Valley station discovered Larry Rich was an alias for Mihai Panaitescu.

Panaitescu allegedly gained repeated access to e-Bay accounts to sell items from the Web site. His victims would wire money to the Western Union and Panaitescu would cash the check.


On at least one occasion, Panaitescu allegedly cashed four different checks totaling more than $20,000 at the Las Vegas Western Union within a 18-hour period.

Authorities finally became aware of Panaitescu after a clerk at the Western Union recognized him and realized he had been using identification from North Carolina and Las Vegas.

Panaitescu was arrested by Las Vegas Metro Police and booked for possession of fake identification.

Deputies at the Victor Valley station later learned Panaitescu was in custody at the Chicago Federal Detention Center for an immigration hold pending a criminal investigation by the Secret Service for computer theft.

The Secret Service investigation revealed Panaitescu and other unknown suspects from Miami, Las Vegas, North Carolina and Chicago were involved in a theft totaling more than $11 million.

The local investigation has been forwarded to the Secret Service for a federal criminal complaint.

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