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June 18th, 2010

Police Bring Down Major Card-Cloning Network, 178 Arrested In Europe, Australia, U.S.

A two-year-long investigation into an international credit-card fraud ring has culminated with the arrest of 178 individuals and dismantling of numerous credit-card cloning laboratories. Authorities estimate that, while it was operational, the cybercriminal network, with branches in several European countries, the U.S. and Australia, has stolen almost $25 million.

According to the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), the investigation began almost two years ago in the city of Valencia, where a group of individuals was suspected of counterfeiting credit cards. The evidence-gathering efforts of the authorities eventually revealed that one of the suspects was the leader of a larger, but very well structured, cross-border criminal organization.

“The organization had multiple subgroups that would function autonomously in the various countries where they carried out their illegal activities. Every subgroup had a leader who, for safety reasons, was the only one to keep in contact with the head of the organization. This is why they were able to carry on with their business despite the arrest of some local members. The leaders would divide the territories between themselves and have no second thoughts about using coercive methods to eliminate the competition. To ensure this ‘territoriality’ part of the profits was delivered to the high-ups of the organization,” the Spanish National Police explains.

In true Mafia style, in order to prevent local leaders from speaking if arrested, the organization took care of all legal fees and provided for their families while they remained in jail. Furthermore, the organization did not hold back from threats and extortion to achieve its goals. To avoid discovery, the leaders’ cut was always delivered to them personally by trusted associates.

In Spain, the police executed 48 search warrants and detained 76 individuals. Six card-cloning laboratories and an R&D one were raided, the authorities finding 30 ATM skimmers, 5,000 cloned cards, 120,000 stolen credit card numbers and various electronic equipment used in counterfeiting.

Additionally, 16 people were arrested in Romania in connection with this investigation, 30 in France, seven in Italy, 16 in Germany (where a skimming device-manufacturing lab was also dismantled), 12 in Ireland, four in Hungary, three in Finland and two in Greece and Sweden, respectively. U.S. authorities also arrested eight suspects and the Australian police two.

Credit: News

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