A Polish organized crime network suspected of online payment scams and money laundering ended up broken up after a joint operation between the Polish National Police and agencies in Croatia, Germany, Romania and Sweden, alongside Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).
The bust occurred May 29-31 and it left 9 people arrested, including what the police say are the criminal network’s masterminds.
The perpetrators were advertising online cars as well as construction or agricultural machinery/vehicles, but never delivered the advertised goods to interested buyers, despite having received advance fee payments, officials said.
The advertisements were on Internet trading platforms selling vehicles and machinery in different EU Member States. The criminal network was active from January 2015 until the moment of the arrests. There have been 1,000 victims of this criminal network, with an estimated loss of at least $2.8 million.
To make the scams appear genuine, the group was buying legitimate reputable small businesses. The online advertisements were then linked to the activities of these trustworthy companies. The money received from victims was subsequently laundered through money mule networks cashing out at ATMs in Poland, Croatia or the Czech Republic.
The Polish police seized several dozens of items during the final raid including cards for ATM withdrawals, cars, laptops and mobile phones. In addition, assets of a value of at least $393,877 ended up seized. Investigations are still on-going and further arrests are expected.
Some of group members were also involved in the other forms of organized crime such us alcohol and tobacco smuggling.
Europol’s EC3 supported the operation by organizing operational meeting at the end of April in its headquarters in The Hague where countries such as Poland, Croatia, Sweden, Germany, and Romania exchanged their operational intelligence.
Polish and Croatian investigators as well as other Europol Liaison officers (including J-CAT representatives) agreed on further possible action depending on the movements of the network’s leaders and members. Europol coordinated the final execution of the case. In addition, a Europol EC3 expert was present on the spot during the action days with a mobile office, allowing direct access to Europol’s databases for cross-checking, analyzing and exchanging intelligence in real time.
“This is another example of successful cooperation between European law enforcement agencies to tackle active cybercriminal groups scamming members of the public across Europe,” said Steven Wilson, the head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). “Great work by the Polish National Police assisted by EC3 and law enforcement agencies across Europe who tackled a sophisticated group using complex methods to abuse electronic payment systems. The clear message to cybercriminals is that law enforcement agencies are working closely together to tackle cross border cyber criminality and the criminals will be caught.”