Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 21, 2012

Man pleads in Internet fraud scheme


CROSSVILLE — Aleksandar Kunkin, 40, of Hungary, pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud for his role in moving approximately $550,000 in illicit proceeds derived from an international online marketplace fraud scheme, announced Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to testimony at the  plea hearing, members of the conspiracy fraudulently listed vehicles for sale at online marketplaces such as eBay. When potential buyers expressed interest in purchasing the vehicles, co-conspirators sent e-mails that directed the buyers to wire payments to certain bank accounts. 

In total, 36 individuals sent approximately $550,102.50 to accounts opened by Kunkin and a co-conspirator. None of the victims ever received the vehicles for which they paid.

“International online marketplace fraud schemes pose a serious threat to consumers and to Internet commerce,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin.  “Foreign-based criminals believe they can flee safely back to their home countries and avoid the consequences of the crimes they commit here. They are mistaken. Federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement officials increasingly are working together to investigate, arrest and prosecute the people responsible for these schemes. The safe havens for these criminals are shrinking thanks to these coordinated efforts. Prosecutions like this one reinforce that message.”

According to testimony, from May to June 2012, Kunkin and a co-conspirator visited Bank of America branches in North Carolina and South Carolina and opened bank accounts under false identities, which were supported by fraudulent identity documents including counterfeit Hungarian passports.

Kunkin opened 15 such accounts, each under a different name.  Kunkin and a co-conspirator subsequently sent the bulk of the money to other co-conspirators located abroad. 

Kunkin was apprehended in June 2012 when he attempted to open an account at a Bank of America branch located in Madison, Tennessee using a Hungarian passport bearing an alias, “Dennis Miller.” Bank personnel, acting on a warning circulated by a Bank of America security official, contacted the Nashville Police Department and delayed Kunkin until officers arrived. 

Upon arrival, a Nashville Metropolitan Police Department Officer spoke to Kunkin and asked for his identification. Kunkin gave the officer the Hungarian passport bearing the name, “Dennis Miller.” 

The officer then asked Kunkin to spell his name. Kunkin replied by misspelling the name as, “Dannis Mellar.” When the officer remarked that this spelling did not match the spelling on the passport, Kunkin stated that the passport was counterfeit and was made in North Carolina. When the officer asked Kunkin whether he had any additional fraudulent identification, Kunkin produced a Hungarian identification card and stated that it also was forged. Kunkin was arrested and charged locally with two counts of forgery under $500 and was later indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2012.

Kunkin will be sentenced on February 21. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron M. Jones with the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Mysti Degani with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

Bilbrey Memorial fund established

Willie Hugh and Verdina Bilbrey have established a fund at all branches of First National Bank of Tennessee in memory of their daughter, Gelia Rhee Bilbrey. To honor her lifetime passion of helping heal victims of abuse through her work as a psychotherapist, the Bilbrey family will give all donations from this fund to the Exchange Club/Stephens Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse to ensure the children in the community live happy, healthy lives free from child abuse and neglect. Memorial contributions are tax deductible.