By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
The Italian Mafia has quite the track record. Nothing but glory days. But crooks can’t live in the past if they want to make money in the present. Europol, in cooperation with various police agencies, busted a large-scale organized crime group with links to the Mafia involved in online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and property crime. The gang stole €10 million euros in just one year.
The suspects defrauded hundreds of victims through phishing attacks and other types of online fraud such as SIM swapping and business email compromise. They then laundered the illicit money through a wide network of money mules and shell companies. Last year alone, the illegal profit is estimated at about €10 million.
Experts in computers, cryptocurrencies, and organizing
This large criminal network was organized in a pyramid structure, which included different specialized areas and roles. The group was comprised of computer experts, who created the phishing domains and carried out the cyber fraud; recruiters and organizers of the money muling; and money laundering experts, including experts in cryptocurrencies.
Most of the suspected members are Italian nationals, some of whom have links to Mafia organizations. Located in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), the suspects tricked their victims, mainly Italian nationals, into sending large sums to bank accounts controlled by the criminal network.
The Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), supported by the Italian National Police (Polizia di Stato), Europol and Eurojust took part in the bust. Europol facilitated the information exchange, the operational coordination and provided analytical support for this investigation, which lasted over a year.
During the operational activities, Europol deployed two analysts and one forensic expert to Tenerife, Spain and one analyst to Italy. Additionally, Europol funded the deployment of three Italian investigators to Tenerife to support the Spanish authorities during the action day.
The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) at Europol supported the operation. This standing operational team consists of cyber liaison officers from different countries who work from the same office on high profile cybercrime investigations.
- 106 arrests, mostly in Spain and some in Italy
- 16 house searches
- 118 bank accounts frozen
- Seizures include many electronic devices, 224 credit cards, SIM cards and point-of-sale terminals, a marihuana plantation and equipment for its cultivation and distribution.
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