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Members of CEO Fraud Ring Arrested

An investigation that has been under way for two years has culminated in the arrest of the masterminds behind a ring of criminals who have been impersonating CEOs for financial gain. Working collaboratively, authorities in France, Belgium, Romania, and Israel have successfully taken down an organized crime group.

Europol announced today that "on 28 May the French National Gendarmerie - Section de Recherches of Bordeaux, supported by the Israeli authorities and Europol, arrested the main suspects of an organised crime group behind a total of 24 cases if CEO fraud across Europe to the detriment of Belgian and French-based commercial companies, causing more than EUR 18 million worth of damage."

The latest arrests are part of what has been an ongoing investigation that was initiated in 2016 when two French companies reported that they had been victims of CEO fraud that resulted in a €1.2 million loss. Throughout previous stages of the ongoing actions, Belgian and French law enforcement had arrested seven individuals that were a part of the large-scale CEO fraud operation.

"The continued investigative efforts made by the French investigators, along with the substantial information exchange and analysis, allowed them to identify and locate four individuals operating from Israel considered to be the masterminds of the busted criminal ring," Europol wrote.

"The French National Gendarmerie, with support from the Israeli Lahav 433 Unit, participated in four house searches and arrests in different locations in Israel." At that time, authorities also seized computers, phones and financial information from the criminals.

The group has had success in stealing the identities of CEOs largely through business email compromise, a highly sophisticated social engineering tactic attackers used to impersonate executives.

Europol deputy executive director of operations, Wil Gemert said, "Incidents of CEO fraud (where the impersonation of CEOs is a key part of the modus operandi) have increased significantly in recent years and we are now at a point where EU-based companies are being swindled out of hundreds of million euros every year. Since the fraudsters often operate from outside the EU, it is only with internationally coordinated operations and a strong focus on asset recovery that we can achieve meaningful successes in the fight against this crime."

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