MALLORCA – Policia Nacional have arrested 16 people, as part of a “Nigerian letters” cybercrime scam. Of those arrested, 15 were based in Mallorca. This includes the suspected “boss” of the love scam criminal organisation. He is thought to be a 27-year-old man of Nigerian nationality.
The investigation (Operation Marine) began when a lady in Alicante reported to police that she had been a victim of a love scam. According to reports, the scammers used a handsome man who pretended to be a US Marine. He regularly made video calls with the woman, building up her trust. Once this was achieved, he began repeatedly asking for financial help. This included money for plane tickets, tax payments and protection money. It is thought the gang took €835,000 from this woman alone.
Virtual love scam
The victim allegedly gave him all her savings. She even applied for personal loans to get more money to transfer to him. In total, 75 bank transfers were conducted, mostly to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Spain.
Furthermore, out of desperation, the victim is said to have sent him a package via courier. This contained a large amount of cash.
The police began tracking the woman´s financial movements. They followed the money trail to Malaga, where they arrested one of the ringleaders of the organisation at the beginning of May.
After having tracked her money for months, the police concluded they were dealing with a criminal organisation made up of cybercriminals specialising in online fraud throughout Europe.
Then, at the beginning of October, the investigation closed in, and the complete dismantling of the network, and the arrests took place.
This type of scam is very similar to the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler”. Simon Leviev began Virtual relationships with women on dating platforms by using fake profiles. After a while, and a lot of patience, he gained the victim’s trust. From this point on, he would ask for money transfers under various pretexts and false emergencies.
According to the findings of the Spanish police so far, the online love scammers have conned millions from over 20 women. The woman identified so far are located in Croatia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. The money, was swindled on the pretence of love when they engaged in online romances. The money, was transferred from straw people (mules) to overseas accounts.
In addition to the alleged Nigerian boss, others aged between 19 and 31 were arrested and charged with fraud, forgery and belonging to a criminal organisation.