June 2022 ended criminals’ time in the sun worldwide as a major Interpol operation took down thousands of scammers, fraudsters, and money launderers across the globe; a Californian federal court found two Nigerian defendants guilty as charged in a transnational fraud and money laundering conspiracy; and the UK’s one-time most-wanted woman was jailed for her role in a VAT fraud scheme.
Find out more on these stories below.
Global Interpol operation sees thousands of cyber-fraud and money laundering suspects arrested, millions in illicit funds seized
Interpol announced on the 15th of June 2022 that a worldwide police crackdown on telecommunications fraud, business email compromise (BEC), and associated money laundering resulted in at least 2,000 arrests and intercepted about $50m in illicit proceeds.
Codenamed Operation ‘First Light 2022,’ the two-month action phase was conducted earlier this year involving the participation of 76 countries and sparked possible investigations on every continent.
The outcome of the operation saw
- 1,770 premises worldwide raided and searched, yielding counterfeit documents, tech devices, and illicit cash
- 3,000 further suspects identified
- 4,000 bank accounts frozen
The operation targeted so-called ‘social engineering fraud’ scams - where victims are fooled into revealing sensitive or personal information that criminals abuse for illicit economic ends. Suspicious call centres and romance scammers were also targeted.
Commenting on the raids INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) Director, Rory Corcoran, said that “the international nature of these crimes can only be addressed successfully by law enforcement working together beyond borders, which is why INTERPOL is critical to providing police the world over with a coordinated tactical response.”
Read more on this story at Cybernews.
Californian federal court finds two men guilty of fraud and money laundering as part of ‘massive conspiracy’
US courts found two Californian residents who instigated massive online scams guilty of fraud and money laundering this week.
The US Department of Justice announced the verdict on the 15th of June 2022. The two Californian residents, who are Nigerian nationals, were originally indicted along with 78 others in August 2019 on charges of being involved in an “extensive, long-lasting, multimillion-dollar conspiracy” which deployed a multitude of online fraud scams and moved the illicit proceeds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network.
George Ugochukwu Egwumba and Princewell Arinze Duru were convicted on one count each of both money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Egwumba was also found guilty of aggravated identity theft, and Duru of aiding and abetting it.
The pair defrauded victims online via business email compromise (BEC), elder fraud, malware fraud, and romance scams. The proceeds, believed to be at least $6m were laundered via money transmitter services and US bank accounts through collusion between Nigeria and US-based conspirators and middlemen. They also attempted to steal an additional $40m.
Egwumba and Duru are due to be sentenced in October 2022 and both face up to 22 years in federal prison. Prosecutors have meanwhile secured an additional 19 guilty pleas from their associates and several arrests have been made in Nigeria. Some suspects have become fugitives.
Read more on this story at Shore News Network.
UK ends nine-year quest for justice as VAT fraud-convicted ex-fugitive starts eight-year jail term
The UK’s most wanted woman, who spent the past nine years on the run after fleeing to Spain while standing trial for money laundering, was finally jailed this week.
In May 2013, she absconded while on trial for her role in a multi-million-pound mobile phone VAT fraud scheme, after which she was then convicted and sentenced in absentia in August 2013.
She was finally identified and arrested by Spanish police while walking her dog in Tarragona, Spain in March 2022. Panitzke unsuccessfully fought extradition to the UK, hoping to serve her custodial sentence in Spain and Spanish authorities returned her to the UK on the 9th of June. She was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court the next day. Panitzke must serve at least four years in custody before being considered for release on license.
She additionally has not honoured the confiscation order of almost £2,5m or nine more years in prison which UK authorities laid against her in March 2016 while she was on the run. With interest, her outstanding balance owed had reached approximately £3,5m in May 2022.
Read more on this story at BBC News.
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