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Here's how a Man Manipulated GSA's Online Auction Process to Bag Vehicles and Jewelry for just $1

In a double whammy of scams, an Oklahoma man manipulated GSA online auctions, acquiring high-value items for $1, while a Romanian cybercriminal received a 7-year sentence for exploiting online auctions, laundering $3.5 million.
Man Paying at online auction (representative image) | Unsplash | Photo by
Man Paying at online auction (representative image) | Unsplash | Photo by

When vehicles, jewelry, and other assets are seized owing to multiple reasons, they are auctioned off online. Although this may sound like a common procedure, it can easily be manipulated by scammers to acquire high-value items at throwaway prices to be sold for massive profits. A man called Evan James Coker has pled guilty for orchestrating an audacious scheme involving the manipulation of the General Service Administration's (GSA) online auctions. Thanks to his plan, Coker acquired high-value vehicles and jewelry, each acquired for an astonishingly minimal price of $1.

A man holds his hand up while bidding on a work of art inside the auction house | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt
A man holds his hand up while bidding on a work of art inside the auction house | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt

Coker exploited the GSA's online auctions, a platform used for selling surplus, seized, and forfeited assets, as well as items no longer required by government agencies. These auctions, crucially, take place through servers located in Eagan, Minnesota.

Coker strategically participated in multiple auctions for vehicles and jewelry on the GSA Auctions website. Upon winning an auction, the usual process directed him to the website to remit payment corresponding to his winning bid. However, Coker deviated from the norm by breaching the website and manipulating the actual auction price to an astonishingly low $1.

Coker's illicit activities resulted in him securing 19 auction items, each acquired deceitfully for a mere $1. Among the notable gains, Coker obtained a 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, initially bid at $8,327; a Ford F550 pickup truck, secured for $9,000; and a Chevrolet C4500 Box Truck, acquired with a fraudulent bid of $22,700.

The exposure of Coker's fraudulent endeavors was the outcome of a comprehensive investigation conducted by the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, in collaboration with the FBI.

The iSold It eBay services storefront | Getty Images | Photo by David McNew
The iSold It eBay services storefront | Getty Images | Photo by David McNew

In a strikingly similar incident, Ionut-Razvan Sandu, a 35-year-old Romanian national, received a seven-year prison sentence for his role in an international cybercrime ring that exploited online auction and sales websites, affecting more than 900 US residents. Sandu, the 24th member sentenced, admitted guilt in April 2022, acknowledging charges related to the gang's fraudulent activities on platforms like eBay. The syndicate, operational since October 2014, deceived victims with fake advertisements for non-existent goods, often posing as US army members. Sandu personally laundered $3.5 million in cryptocurrency obtained through the scheme. The US Secret Service, in a prolonged effort, led the investigation, collaborating with international authorities to dismantle the criminal network. Sandu's case underscores the severity of cybercrimes impacting ordinary Americans, prompting stringent law enforcement actions.

A surge in fake auction scams has also led to a warning for farmers shopping online for large equipment. This has followed scammers luring buyers with irresistible prices for popular items, using counterfeit auction websites constructed with readily available software. Jon Tofte, President of I-35 Auctions, advised farmers to stick to reputable auctioneers, emphasizing red flags like unusually low prices and excuses hindering physical equipment inspections. Recent cases involved farmers losing $100,000 in western Iowa and $80,000 in South Dakota to tractor purchase scams. This highlights the need for farmers to exercise caution, and to verify the authenticity of online auctions.