Mafia cybercrime group dismantled by Europol
The group made €10 million from cybercrime in 2020 alone.
An Monday operation carried out by multiple European law enforcement agencies led to more than a hundred arrests of members of an organized cybercrime group linked to the Italian Mob.
The criminal network has been reportedly involved in numerous types of crime, including “online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, and property crime.” Europol states that the group scammed “hundreds” of victims by conducting online phishing campaigns, targeted SIM swapping attacks, and business email compromise scams. The suspects then laundered their illicit profits via a network of shell companies and money mules.
The law enforcement operation, led by the Spanish National Police and supported by the Italian National Police, Europol, and Eurojust, resulted in 16 house searches and 106 arrests across Spain and Italy, 118 bank accounts being frozen, and numerous electronic devices, point-of-sale terminals, SIM cards, and 224 credit cards being seized by the police. Law enforcement officials also seized a marijuana plantation along with its cultivation equipment.
According to Europol, the criminal group was organized in a pyramid structure and included specialists in their particular criminal fields. “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. Most of the suspected members are Italian nationals, some of whom have links to mafia organizations,” Europol said in a statement.
The group’s base of operations was located on the island of Tenerife, where the suspects masterminded scam campaigns against their victims, most of whom were Italian nationals. The victims were tricked into sending vast sums of money to bank accounts controlled by the criminal organization. The stolen money was then laundered through “a wide network of money mules and shell companies.”
To support the Spanish and Italian police officers during the operation, The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) at Europol sent two analysts and one forensic expert to Tenerife, as well as one analyst to Italy.
According to the Spanish National Police, the group’s activities also included violent crime, including kidnapping and two murders reportedly committed in Tenerife.
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