After extensive investigations into phishing, the police have arrested 14 money mules in recent months. A file was drawn up against 12 of them and forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service. The public prosecutor determines whether they will be prosecuted.
The case started when a couple from Breda became the victim of phishing in January of this year. After the couple had done their banking, nothing seemed to be going on at first. A few days later, the couple was called by the bank that large amounts had been debited from their account. In total, the couple lost more than 300,000 euros.
The police suspect that the scammers have requested a new bank card and that they have fished it out of the couple’s letterbox. With that, the criminals had access to the couple’s accounts and transferred funds to various accounts. They then bought bitcoins with the money.
To transfer the money, the scammers used bank accounts of money mules. These are people (often vulnerable young people ) who make their bank account available to criminals. In return, they receive a portion of the proceeds of the money funnelled through their account.
After the couple filed a report, the police launched an investigation. The investigation took several months. In the end, the police arrived at 14 suspects, between the ages of 18 and 60, who live across the country. The police prepared a file against 12 of them and sent it to the Public Prosecution Service (OM). It is now up to the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether the suspects will be prosecuted for their part in the fraudulent practice, or whether they will get off with a warning.
What money mules do not know or are insufficiently aware of is that they are guilty of a serious crime, namely money laundering. The real perpetrator remains out of the picture and the victims get a criminal record. Or worse, end up in jail.
Because of the far-reaching consequences, the police regularly warn about the dangers of money mules. To draw attention to the problem, the police launched the ‘My scam, your problem!’ campaign in September . . Caroline Sander, team leader at the Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF), said at the time that the chance of being caught is high, money mules often pay for the financial damage and they could be prosecuted criminally.
“The campaign message contains a clear warning: we outline recognizable situations so that young people – and their immediate environment – can recognize that they are being recruited as a money mule. We also show that it can have major consequences if someone makes his or her debit card or bank account available to criminals. Such a person risks a criminal record and the risk that he or she will no longer be able to open a bank account,” said the police at the launch of the information campaign.
A number of victims from Zoetermeer know that being a money mule is not entirely without danger. At the end of 2019, they were visited by criminals who wanted to increase the pressure to transfer their victims’ money to them earlier. Another money mule was shot, another was held hostage for a while in January 2020 because he allegedly owed the suspect money.
“Another victim was taken in a car on September 4, 2019, and a little later evicted in a parking lot and shot at. The suspect also wanted ‘back to him what they were entitled to’”, according to the Public Prosecution Service. According to the public prosecutor, the suspects did not pay attention to the impact their actions had on the victims, or the safety of local residents.
The Public Prosecution Service has arrested four suspects and demanded prison terms ranging from 30 months to 12 years.
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