The European law enforcement agencies, Europol and Eurojust together dismantled an extensive network of cybercriminals linked to the Italian Mafia that had defrauded their victims of roughly €10 million ($11.7 million) last year alone.
Europol stated that the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), supported by the Italian National Police (Polizia di Stato), Europol and Eurojust, dismantled an organized crime group linked to the Italian Mafia involved in online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and property crime.
The suspects have defrauded hundreds of victims through phishing attacks and other types of online fraud such as SIM swapping and business email compromise before laundering the money through a wide network of money mules and shell companies.
The law enforcement agents have made 106 arrests mainly in Spain and some in Italy. They were involved in 16 house searches and were behind the freeze of 118 bank accounts controlled by the cybercrime group.
The investigation also led to the seizure of many electronic devices, 224 credit cards, point-of-sale terminals and SIM cards, a marijuana plantation and the equipment required for cultivation and distribution.
This criminal network was organized using a pyramid structure with various specialized crime areas and roles for its members.
Some of the cybercrime group’s members were computer experts who were creating and managing the phishing infrastructure and coordinating and carrying out online fraud.
While some members were specialized in recruiting and organizing money mules, there were others involved in money laundering and cryptocurrency experts.
Europol revealed that most of the suspected members are Italian nationals, some of whom have links to mafia organization.
The suspects who were located in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), tricked their victims, mainly Italian nationals, into sending large sums to bank accounts controlled by the criminal network.
Europol deployed analysts and forensic experts to Spain and Italy during the investigation. It also funded the deployment of three Italian investigators to Spain to support the Spanish authorities during the action day.
The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) at Europol also supported the operation. The standing operational team consists of cyber liaison officers from different countries who work from the same office on high profile cybercrime investigations.
Image Credits : Raconteur