Europol, Italian Police & FBI dismantled a cyber criminal gang

Pierluigi Paganini April 28, 2015

Italian police with the support of the Europol and the FBI arrested 10 members of a criminal gang that targeted many individuals and firms across the Europe.

Italian law enforcement Guardia di Finanza with the support of the Europol and the FBI arrested ten members of a criminal organization operating in Italy and involved in Internet scams. According to the Europol the agents of the Guardia di Finanza have searched some 32 sites to arrest the alleged members of a transnational gang mainly composed of Nigerian citizens.

“The Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza), supported by Europol, today arrested 10 members of a transnational criminal group. The criminals, mainly Nigerian citizens, were involved in laundering the proceeds of online fraud, amounting to over EUR 2.5 million. More than 130 police officers were involved in the operation, supported by experts from Europol’s Financial Intelligence Group and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), leading to 10 arrests and 32 searches in different locations.” Europol the Europol in an official announcement.

The criminal gang targeted hundreds of individuals and dozens of private firms companies across the Europe, the criminals were specialized in payment diversion and Internet romance scams, also known as dating scams.

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In order to divert a payment process, the criminals use to hack company’s communications systems and modify the account numbers for payments to suppliers and customers.

“With payment diversion fraud, fraudsters hijack a company’s means of communication and provide company staff in charge of payments with different account details for suppliers or customers. Money is therefore inadvertently transferred to bank accounts controlled by the criminal group members who then send the money abroad and ultimately withdraw it as cash.” continues the Europol.

With Internet romance scams the fraud scheme is based on a network of fake profiles on legitimate Internet dating websites. Once hooked the victim, members of the criminal organization seeking to circumvent her providing fake news on their profile and convincing the victims to send money, for instance for a plane or train ticket.

Similar frauds are quite common on the Internet, recently similar approach was used by other gangs to operate sextortion.

“Criminals, too, operate in a completely integrated financial environment in Europe and beyond. Money can travel as fast as digital data across many jurisdictions and eventually become ready-to-use cash in the hands of fraudsters thousands of kilometers away from the money’s criminal origin. Sharing and combining the financial intelligence available in the different Member States is the only way to tackle large-scale money laundering. Europol’s Financial Intelligence Group is here to support European countries with this challenge.” explained the Head of Europol’s Financial Intelligence Group, Igor Angelini.

The Italian Police analyzed a huge number of financial transactions to track the financial flaws used by the gangs and their cash-out techniques.

“The criminal group relied on a network of accomplices who operated a sort of coordinated ‘bank run’ within a few hours in order to make cash withdrawals from bank accounts chosen as final destinations,” Europol said.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Europol, cybercrime)

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