United States v. Liviu-Sorin Nedelcu

RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION Pursuant to Sixth Circuit I.O.P. 32.1(b) File Name: 22a0198p.06 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT ┐ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, │ Plaintiff-Appellee, │ > No. 20-6328 │ v. │ │ LIVIU-SORIN NEDELCU, │ Defendant-Appellant. │ ┘ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at Lexington. No. 5:18-cr-00081-3—Robert E. Wier, District Judge. Argued: May 10, 2022 Decided and Filed: August 22, 2022 Before: CLAY, GRIFFIN, and WHITE, Circuit Judges. _________________ COUNSEL ARGUED: Thomas C. Lyons, LAW OFFICES OF THOMAS C. LYONS, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellant. Sonja M. Ralston, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Thomas C. Lyons, THOMAS C. LYONS LAW OFFICES, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellant. Sonja M. Ralston, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., Charles P. Wisdom, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee. _________________ OPINION _________________ GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge. Defendant Liviu-Sorin Nedelcu pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy. At sentencing, the district court increased his offense level based on the section of the Sentencing Guidelines that No. 20-6328 United States v. Nedelcu Page 2 applies to money-laundering convictions. Nedelcu contends that this was an erroneous application because he was not convicted of money laundering. We disagree. Because the factual basis for Nedelcu’s plea agreement specifically established that he committed money laundering as a predicate for his RICO conviction, the Guidelines compelled the district court to sentence him “as if” he had been convicted of money laundering. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court. I. In 2018, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky indicted over a dozen members of the Romania-based “Alexandria Online Auction Fraud Network.” This organization advertised fictitious goods for sale on websites such as eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon. When consumers tried to buy these goods, the fraudsters instructed them to pay in various hard-to-trace forms like gift cards or prepaid debit cards. These payments were then converted into Bitcoin through intermediaries, and ultimately redeemed for cash at corrupt currency exchanges in Eastern Europe. The would-be customers never received the promised goods. Nedelcu participated in this scheme. The grand jury charged him with conspiracy to violate RICO, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1962(d); conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). Romania extradited Nedelcu to the United States to face these charges. He soon entered into a plea agreement under which he pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy in exchange for the dismissal of his other charges. To provide a factual basis for his guilty plea, Nedelcu admitted that the government could prove the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt: (a) Liviu-Sorin Nedelcu is a Romanian national from Brag[a]di[r]u, Romania, who lived for several years in Alexandria, Romania. He used the following online monikers: idll00, idl6666, idl16, foiaol2015, and rapitoru007. He was associated with the Alexandria Online Auction Fraud (“AOAF”) Network, an enterprise as defined by 18 …

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