Irish properties searched in probe into online PPE scam
A gang using an online scam to sell Covid-19 protective equipment has been uncovered by authorities in Ireland, Romania and the Netherlands.
The fraud was run by an organised crime group which, prior to the pandemic, was already illegally offering other fictitious products for sale online, such as wooden pellets.
The gang used a sophisticated scheme involving compromised emails and advance-payment fraud to sell PPE materials such as face masks.
Twenty-three suspects were detained on August 10 in a series of raids carried out simultaneously in the Netherlands, Romania and Ireland as part of an operation co-ordinated by Europol.
In total, 34 locations were searched.
The criminals are believed to have defrauded companies in at least 20 countries out of approximately one million euro.
Last year they changed their modus operandi and started offering protective equipment after the outbreak of coronavirus.
The group, made up of nationals from different African countries residing in Europe, created fake email addresses and webpages similar to those belonging to legitimate wholesale companies.
Impersonating these companies, the criminals would then trick victims – mainly European and Asian companies – into placing orders with them, requesting payment in advance in order for the goods to be sent.
However, Europol said, the orders were never delivered, and the proceeds were laundered through Romanian bank accounts controlled by the gang before being withdrawn at ATMs.