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Directory Assistance: FTC Honors AUSA for Prosecuting Business Directory Fraudsters

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Scammers roaming the globe may attempt to evade law enforcement in an attempt to evade law enforcement. But they don’t take into account the tenacity of public servants like Katherine Kopita, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Upstate District of New York. Kopita’s work to prosecute offenders by illegally billing more than 1,300 small businesses, health care providers, and schools for her listings in a fake online directory is under the control of the FTC’s Criminal Liaison Unit ( CLU) awarded her the Prosecutor’s Advocate Award. .

The scheme involved sending small business owners and non-profits false invoices for online advertising services they did not order or approve. When people didn’t pay the fake bills, the scammers sent them fake collection notices. Concerned about the consequences, many companies shouted “Uncle!” And paid the money they didn’t owe.

AUSA Kopita secured indictments against defendants Ivan and Stefan Chernev and a third co-conspirator in 2017, but then faced the challenge of tracking down and extraditing the defendants to the United States. Kopita worked with the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs to extradite Ivan Chernev from Italy in 2019 and Stefan Chernev from Germany in 2022.

Ivan Chernev eventually pleaded guilty, admitting that he and his co-conspirators used fake billing schemes to steal money from small businesses, medical institutions, and schools. Chernev said he was sentenced to 68 months in prison and had to pay $1.25 million in compensation orders. Criminal proceedings against Stefan Chernev are ongoing.

Good news for consumers and bad news for fraudsters, US law enforcement and its international agencies often coordinate efforts to prosecute lawbreakers. For example, in this case, AUSA Kopita worked with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with assistance from the FTC. In fact, Ivan Chernev is no stranger to the FTC since the FTC sued him in 2015 in the FTC v. American Yellow Browser case. financial relief.

Partnering with law enforcement is part of the FTC’s day-to-day business, and we would like to thank our prosecutors for their exemplary efforts to protect consumers. That’s why the FTC’s Criminal Liaison Unit was proud to present the Prosecutor’s Attorney Award to Katherine Her Kopita at an awards ceremony in Albany, New York last week.

Since its founding in 2003, the FTC’s CLU has helped prosecute more than 1,000 criminal defendants: fraudulent telemarketers, fictitious debt collectors, immigration fraudsters, and other consumer predators. I’ve been To learn more about CLU’s work, watch this video.Looking for the inside story on how scammers are targeting your company? Read the FTCs Fraud and Small Businesses.