There was the 60-year-old man scammed earlier this year the first time he ever used the Internet, trying to buy a vehicle online.
And there was the Las Vegas doctor who has spent at least 35 hours working with law enforcement in the hopes of catching the men who sold him a nonexistent Maserati.
And there was the man who started taking prescription medication to cope with the stress of being swindled.
Those were just three of the 20 victims federal investigators have connected to an international fraud ring with ties to Hampton Roads.
Andras Rabi, a 28-year-old Hungarian national, was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to U.S. District Court documents, Rabi was a middleman for a criminal organization that ripped off people interested in buying cars, boats and recreational vehicles through Internet auction sites like eBay.
It was his job to collect the money in various bank accounts and forward it to co-conspirators in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and other European and Asian countries. To cover his tracks, he used fake passports to open the accounts in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
In about four months, Rabi helped the organization steal more than $500,000, according to documents. His take was 10 percent.
In court Thursday, Deputy Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball painted his client as an unwilling participant in the fraud. He said Rabi came to the United States last year thinking he’d been hired for a legitimate job.
When he learned it was a scam, Rabi didn’t know what to do, Kimball said. If he quit or went to police, the men who hired him might hurt his family in Hungary.
“I didn’t want to continue and made that clear to the criminal group,” Rabi said through an interpreter before apologizing to his victims. “They didn’t let me leave and walk away. They threatened me.”
Judge Arenda Wright Allen said she wasn’t worried about Rabi – a former waiter for Carnival Cruises – returning to a life of crime when he gets out of prison. She said it was clear he was not a leader.
“I just wish you had the fortitude to come forward when you realized what was going on,” she said, noting the impact on his victims.
“They were violated.”
Scott Daugherty, 757-222-5221, firstname.lastname@example.org