More than 50 law enforcement agents based in the U.S., Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany and Israel, worked together over the last 24 hours to arrest 16 cyber criminals involved in a highly advanced, transnational cybercrime ring.
From Washington, D.C., the Justice Department unsealed 19 indictments Wednesday, alleging that those arrested were involved in a sophisticated international fraud and money laundering scheme. Of the 19 indicted, 17 are currently in custody and two remain at large. The arrests follow what the FBI describes as a multi-year, cross border investigation, which began in 2011 and was conducted in tandem by international law enforcement partners.
According to U.S. law enforcement, the criminals used a wide array of email spoofing techniques and fake online advertisements to steal more than $13 million from 170 victims, most of whom reside in the U.S. The counterfeit sales conspiracy targeted car buyers.
“As part of the online vehicle fraud scheme, a network of individuals in Europe allegedly advertised cars for sale on various websites. When car buyers wired the money to the purported sellers’ bank accounts in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, other co-conspirators who had traveled to the U.S. and opened bank accounts using counterfeit identification documents immediately withdrew the money, laundered it, and then sent it to their associates in Europe,” a blog post written by the FBI reads.
Another scheme designed by the group involved tricking individuals into believing their bosses were requesting a wire transfer. By sending fraudulent emails that appeared to come from company CEOs, employees were asked to send company funds to a dummy bank account.
In December, U.S. law enforcement agencies similarly joined in on an international cybercrime bust after foreign hackers infected roughly 20,000 U.S.-based computers. In that case, the criminal group, known simply as Avalanche, were flooding email inboxes with phishing and spam emails. An unidentified private-sector partner helped “take control” of Avalanche’s computer servers.
The emergence of cybercrime as a global phenomenon is causing the FBI and Justice Department to increasingly rely on international law enforcement collaboration, legal treaties and informal agreements in addition to cooperation from the private sector, former Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell previously stated.