European Police Bust €10m Mafia Fraud Ring

European police claim to have dismantled an organized crime group that made €10m from online fraud, drug trafficking and property crimes last year.

The operation involved the Spanish and Italian national police, with Europol and Eurojust coordinating.

The group itself, which was linked to the Italian mafia, is suspected of defrauding hundreds of victims via phishing attacks, business email compromise (BEC), SIM swapping and other types of online fraud. It is said to have laundered these proceeds through an extensive network of money mules and shell companies.

During police raids in Italy and the Canary Islands holiday hotspot, Tenerife, law enforcers made 106 arrests, conducted 16 house searches, and seized hundreds of credit cards, SIM cards, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and electronic devices. They also discovered and dismantled a marijuana plantation.

Some 118 bank accounts were frozen as part of the international law enforcement effort.

“This large criminal network was very well organized in a pyramid structure, which included different specialized areas and roles. Among the members of the criminal group were 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,” Europol explained.

“Most of the suspected members are Italian nationals, some of whom have links to mafia organizations. Located in Tenerife, the suspects tricked their victims, mainly Italian nationals, into sending large sums to bank accounts controlled by the criminal network.”

Phishing remains the most common cybercrime reported to the FBI, with more than 240,000 cases logged with the bureau last year. However, it accounted for just $54m in losses in 2021, versus nearly $1.9bn for BEC, which is the most costly crime type.

Identity theft, often the result of SIM swapping and phishing, cost victims over $219m last year.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?