In May of this year, a company dedicated to the distribution of fruit and vegetables based in Elche filed a complaint claiming that someone had impersonated one of their providers and had sent them an email requiring they paid the company in a new account number. Before they realized they had been deceived, the company transferred more than 47,000 euro to the account indicated by the alleged scammers. The agents of the Territorial Team of the Judicial Police of the Civil Guard of Santa Pola began investigations to find out what was happening, starting Operation Marfruit.
After taking statements and analyzing the documentation collected, the authorities determined this wasn't an isolated event and came to the conclusion that they were dealing with a criminal group specialized in this type of scam.
The CEO scam
The criminal group managed to interfere with the conversations that the creditor company had with its debtors. They would communicate with companies that owed money or had to carry out any economic transaction with the creditor company as the date of said transaction got closer. They communicated via a false email with a domain that was very similar to the legitimate email used by the creditor company. They would then change the payment terms, providing their victims with a new bank account number.
The bank accounts that the criminals gave to the debtors and victims of the scams were created online with the sole purpose of committing crimes (ad hoc). The holders of these accounts were people who were unaware of their existence since the gang usurped their identities to make it difficult for the police to identify them.
Once the victims made the payments in these accounts, the group diverted the income to other accounts that were under their names so they could withdraw the money obtained from the criminal endeavor.
At a certain point in the investigation, the agents confirmed that the criminal group had managed to deceive more companies throughout the national territory using the same method, scamming them from more than 560,000 euro.
The agents arrested two people in Valencia, three people in Moncada, and another person in Tabernes Blanques and charged them with the crimes of fraud, identity theft, and belonging to a criminal organization.
The operation allowed the Civil Guard of Santa Pola to recover more than 500,000 euro.