CAMDEN, NJ – A California man has been convicted of six counts related to the theft of more than $23 million from the United States Department of Defense (DoD), money intended for one of its suppliers of jet fuel, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Sercan Oyuntur, 40, of Northridge, Calif., was convicted on April 28, 2022, of one count of conspiracy to commit wire, mail and bank fraud; two counts of bank fraud; one count of using an unauthorized access device to commit fraud; one count of aggravated impersonation; and one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement officials, following an eight-day trial before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Camden federal court .
According to the documents filed in this case and the evidence presented at trial:
A company that had a contract with the DoD to supply jet fuel to troops operating in Southeast Asia employed a person in New Jersey who was responsible for communicating with the federal government on behalf of the company through a government computer system. Through an elaborate phishing scheme, Oyuntur and criminal conspirators in Germany, Turkey and New Jersey targeted the company and the individual so that the conspirators could steal the money the DoD intended to pay to the company to supply jet fuel.
The Oyuntur conspirators created fake email accounts in other people’s names and designed fake web pages that looked like the General Services Administration (GSA) public website. From June to September 2018, the conspirators sent phishing emails to various DoD vendors, including the person in New Jersey who represented the company, to trick those vendors into visiting the phishing pages. These emails appeared to be legitimate communications from the United States government, but were in fact sent by the conspirators and contained electronic links that automatically directed individuals to the phishing pages. There they saw what appeared to be a GSA website and were asked to enter their confidential login credentials, which were then used by the conspirators to make changes to government systems and ultimately divert money to the conspirators.
As part of its participation in the scheme, Oyuntur worked closely with another conspirator, Hurriyet Arslan, who owned a used car dealership, Deal Automotive Sales, in Florence, New Jersey. Arslan opened a separate shell company based in New Jersey to be used in the criminal scheme, obtained a cell phone number for the shell company, hired another person to impersonate the owner of the shell company and opened a bank account in the name of the front company. .
On October 10, 2018, based on the fraudulent activities of Oyuntur and his conspirators, the DoD transferred $23.5 million that had been earned by the victim company to Arslan’s Deal Automotive bank account. Arslan went to the bank and was able to access some of this money, but the bank did not release all the funds for Arslan. That same day, a conspirator in Turkey sent Arslan an email with an amended government contract that incorrectly stated that Deal Automotive had been awarded a DoD contract worth approximately $23 million. Oyuntur asked Arslan to take this bogus contract to the bank to explain why he had received the money, so that Arslan could convince the bank to release the remaining funds.
The counts of conspiracy and bank fraud that Oyuntur was convicted of each carry a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The count of using an unauthorized access device to commit fraud carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Counting false statements carries a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison. The count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison. The counts of conspiracy and bank fraud each carry a maximum fine equal to the greater of $1 million or two times the gross profit or loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater; the remaining counts carry a fine of $250,000, or double the gain or loss resulting from the violation, whichever is greater. Oyuntur will be sentenced on a date to be determined.
Arslan pleaded guilty in January 2020 to conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering and is expected to be sentenced on June 21, 2022.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited U.S. Attorney’s Office criminal investigators, under Special Agent in Charge Thomas Mahoney; General Services Administration Special Agents, Office of Inspector General, under Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Radwick; special agents from the United States Department of Defense, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Northeast Field Office, and the Cyber Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patrick Hegarty and Agent special responsible Kenneth A. DeChellis; and special agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina in Newark, the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by trial attorney Jason M. Richardson of the Civil Rights Division in Camden and Assistant US Attorney Sara A. Aliabadi of the Special Prosecutions Division in Camden.