The Guardia Civil dismantles a gang specialising in “SIM swapping” or SIM card cloning.

22_07_01_The Guardia Civil dismantles a gang specialising in SIM swapping or SIM card cloning
All the members of the gang have been arrested: the three leaders, one of whom has been imprisoned, and thirteen ‘economic muleteers’.

The criminal group would have physically taken possession of the money swindled by means of bank transfers or withdrawals from cash machines in gaming halls in the provinces of Alicante and Murcia.

With this action, the agents have managed to recover more than 90,000 euros of the total amount swindled in different parts of Spain.

The Guardia Civil dismantles a gang specialised in the method of fraud.
The criminal group had physically seized the money swindled by means of bank transfers or withdrawals from cash machines in gaming halls in the provinces of Alicante and Murcia.

With this action, the agents have managed to recover more than 90,000 euros of the total amount swindled in different parts of Spain.

The Guardia Civil of Alicante, in the framework of the operation Rulsimlute, has dismantled a criminal group specialised in cyber-scamming by the methods of ‘phishing’ and ‘SIM swapping’. The gang had illegally obtained an economic amount of more than 126,000 euros from the bank accounts of their victims. All the members of the gang have been arrested in the provinces of Alicante and Murcia, and charged with membership of a criminal group, fraud, usurpation of civil status, money laundering, illegal possession of weapons and drug trafficking.

In March 2022, following complaints lodged by a well-known Spanish bank, the Alicante Civil Guard’s Team @ became aware that several of its customers were being victims of fraud committed through the use of new technologies. As this was not an isolated incident and with the aim of clarifying the reported facts, the agents started operation Rulsimlute.

After analysing the documentation collected and studying the modus operandi used by the criminals, the agents came to the conclusion that they were dealing with a criminal group with a high level of specialisation in the use of new technologies, as they used a system that resulted from the combination of two methods known and used by cybercriminals.

On the one hand, in order to obtain the personal data of their potential victims, they used the ‘phishing’ method, and for this purpose they sent massive fraudulent e-mails, impersonating the identity of a well-known Spanish bank.

On the other hand, the previous method was combined with another method known as ‘SIM swapping’ or SIM card cloning. During the application of this new method, one of the leaders of the gang, who worked in a mobile phone shop in the town of Orihuela, came into action. The worker would request a duplicate SIM card linked to the chosen victim’s phone number, then take control of their digital banking and fraudulently transfer large sums of money from the victim’s bank account to the accounts of the economic mules.

The agents determined that the gang was structured in an organised and defined manner, distributing the tasks in a specific and disciplined way prior to the commission of the crimes.

The criminal group was composed on the one hand by the leaders: the employee of the mobile phone shop, a 40-year-old man of Spanish nationality, and by two brothers of Moroccan nationality aged 35 and 33, the latter having the role of leadership of the gang, recruitment and control of the economic mule drivers.

On the other hand, there was the network of mueros, who provided their bank account numbers to fraudulently receive the financial transfers from the victims’ accounts, but also made bank withdrawals or purchases in gaming halls located in the Vega Baja and Murcia areas. Subsequently, in exchange for financial remuneration, they handed over the swindled amounts to the ringleaders.

Once all the members of the criminal group had been identified and located, between the months of March and June of this year, the agents carried out the operation in a staggered manner.

Firstly, on 30 March, the worker of the telephone shop and leader of the gang was arrested and his home in the town of Elche was searched. On the same day, in different actions of the operation, 10 economic mules were arrested.

Then, on 5 May, the two brothers were arrested and their two homes in Orihuela and Redován were searched.

Finally, the operation concluded on the 1st of June with the arrest of 3 new economic mules, making a total of 13 mules arrested in the whole operation, they were people of different nationalities, Spanish, Uruguayan and Brazilian, between 26 and 48 years of age, one of them a woman and the rest men.

The Orihuela Magistrate’s Court, which is the judicial authority in charge of the case, has ordered the imprisonment of one of the brothers, while the other members have been released with precautionary measures. The detainees, with varying degrees of participation, have been charged with membership of a criminal group, fraud, usurpation of civil status, money laundering, illegal possession of weapons and drug trafficking.

The Guardia Civil has been able to recover a variety of material in two searches, including: various mobile phone devices; various SIM cards; 40 tablets of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy; 5 kilograms of marijuana buds; 2,059 euros divided into several notes and coins of varying value; an electroshock weapon, commonly known as a taser; and the criminals also had two small firearms ready for use and sixteen rounds of live ammunition.

Several bank accounts belonging to the gang members have also been blocked, thus recovering more than 90,000 euros of the total amount swindled.

So far, the Guardia Civil has been able to prove that the network has obtained a total amount of more than 126,000 euros through this method, from different bank accounts of ten victims residing in the provinces of Ciudad Real, Salamanca, Navarra, Zamora, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Huelva. The operation has not been concluded, so it is not ruled out that the number of victims will increase once all the seized documentation has been analysed.

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