Police Announce Huge Bust of Mafia’s Cyber Crime Operations

Police in Europe arrested 106 people accused of working for several Italian Mafia groups and laundering more than 10 million euros they made through various cybercrimes.

On Monday, Europol, Italy’s Polizia di Stato, and Spain’s Policia Nacional announced a joint operation that resulted in the arrests of 106 people in the island of Tenerife, Spain. The cops accuse them of SIM swapping and “business email compromise,” a common crime where criminals send phishing emails to companies and trick employees into sending money to their bank accounts.  

In its press release, Europal said that police seized “224 credit cards, SIM cards and point-of-sale terminals, a marihuana plantation and equipment for its cultivation and distribution.”

The operation highlights how traditional organized crime is increasingly dabbling in cybercrime. 

“Among the members of the criminal group were computer experts, who created the phishing domains and carried out the cyber fraud; recruiters and organisers of the money muling; and money laundering experts, including experts in cryptocurrencies,” according to Europol’s press release. 

The Polizia di Stato said in its press release that the alleged criminals employed hackers “specialized in phishing, vishing, and social engineering” who took control of victim’s bank accounts and stole millions of euros. The criminals then laundered the money buying cryptocurrency or via more traditional criminal activities such as drug and arms trafficking, according to the Italian police. 

Do you have more information about how organized crime uses hacking? You can contact reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Wire apps “lorenzofb,” or email lorenzofb@vice.com

Some of the people arrested were fugitives accused of working for different Italian criminal gangs such as the neapolitan Camorra, and Apulia’s Sacra Corona Unita, the police said.

“The organization had a high degree of technical knowledge, which allowed them to employ different modes of computer fraud: phishing, smishing, vishing, SIM swapping, fraud against the CEO and hacks against companies,” Spanish police said in its press release

The alleged criminals were also involved in two homicides, violent extortion, and robberies against local businesses in Tenerife, according to the Spanish police. 

Europol, Italy’s Polizia di Stato and Spain’s Policia Nacional did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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