Boiler room gangs targeted in 'landmark' police crackdown

Feb 28, 2014

Fraudsters dupe investors into buying worthless shares and spend the cash on fast cars and villas

Getty Images UK

CRIMINAL gangs who con victims out of millions of pounds have been targeted by police in the biggest ever international crackdown on 'boiler room' fraud.

Police made 110 arrests in both Spain and the UK in a series of raids on suspects who allegedly duped investors into buying worthless or non-existent shares.

Eighty-four arrests were made in Spain, 20 in Britain, two in the US and four in Serbia.

Each boiler room network is believed to have an accountant, money launderer and lawyer, as well as people who do the "sales".

The gangs have reportedly been spending their cash on Rolex watches, Armani suits, fast cars and flashy apartments. Police seized a Ferrari from a home in Marbella, an Aston Martin from Barcelona and a Ford Mustang discovered at a property in Manchester.

As much as £200m is lost to boiler room frauds in Britain every year, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. Victims of the gangs targeted by police this week have lost sums ranging from £2,000 to £500,000, with one individual losing £6m, reports the BBC.

There are 850 confirmed victims of the gangs in the UK, say police, but the real figure is likely to be many thousands. Fraudsters cold-call their victims, applying "high-pressure sales techniques" and "confidence tricks" to persuade them to part with their money. Victims are often vulnerable and many are in the 70s or 80s. Some have even committed suicide after finding themselves unable to cope with their financial problems.

The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation, codenamed Operation Rico, which aims to "decimate" Europe's boiler room fraud – so-called because of the cramped conditions they work from.

It is being led by detectives from City of London Police, supported by Spanish police, and has involved agencies in the UK and overseas, including the US Secret Service.

City of London Police commander, Steve Head, described the operation as a "landmark" from an investigative perspective and in terms of the UK police's close working partnership with other law enforcement agencies.

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