Officials of the Cybercrime Division of the Economic Crime Department of the Main Criminal Police Department of the State Police suspended the activities of an organized group of cybercriminals this year, as a result of which a large amount of cash and more than $280,000 in cash and over $110,000 USD in cryptocurrencies were confiscated. The crimes were committed abroad, but in the territory of Latvia, in the period from the beginning of 2015 to the beginning of 2020, there has been a long-term large-scale money laundering. Three people were arrested for committing the crime.
On 19 February this year, the ENAP officials of the State Police initiated criminal proceedings in connection with the incident in accordance with Section 195, Paragraph three of the Criminal Law – for large-scale money laundering, possibly as a result of cybercrime committed abroad, in an organized group. The law will provide for such a crime as a penalty – imprisonment for a term of three to 12 years, with or without confiscation of property, and supervision of probation for a period of up to three years or without it.
During the investigation in the criminal proceedings, a large amount of information was obtained about an organized group that has been engaged in fraudulent activities on the Internet for a long period of time. Including such well-known platforms as Ebay, PayPal, Booking and others.
It was found that the organized group massively purchased people’s personal data on various darknet websites, as well as access data to profiles on various platforms, compromised e-mail passwords and other personal data in order to gain access to victims’ electronic payment data later.
Fraud varied, depending on the platform on which the criminals operated, but the methods cannot be described in detail in the interests of investigation. The purchase of this information took place mainly on closed internet platforms (DarkNet forums), where other items prohibited for free circulation, such as prohibited substances, counterfeit goods or forged documents, can also be purchased.
The fraudsters mostly laundered money in the territory of Latvia, using various methods – they bought both movable and immovable property, and paid with the proceeds of crime on a daily basis – for fuel, food, entertainment, as well as made investments in cryptocurrency and gold.
The investigation revealed that most of the victims of fraud were abroad. Therefore, the number of victims and their location is still being clarified, but it should be noted that the number of victims could be more than 1,000, mostly from the continent of Western Europe and North America.
The officers of the unit identified and detained three Latvian residents – two of the detainees are Latvian citizens and one non-citizen – while performing a set of operational and criminal procedural measures, including monitoring the forums of the closed-type Internet platform DarkNet. The detainees are men born in 1986, 1989 and 1991. All three men were identified as suspects in the criminal proceedings. One of the suspects, a man born in 1986, was remanded in custody by the court. Other persons were subjected to non-custodial measures.
Also, more than 12 searches were carried out in the criminal proceedings, as a result of which a large number of electronic evidence, which is of significant importance in the criminal proceedings, was seized. A significant amount of cash and material assets – cash – around 280,000 euros and 37,000 dollars were also seized during searches and other investigative activities. As well as cryptocurrency (BTC, ETH, XRP and USDT) funds in the amount of more than 110,000 thousand euros.
As a matter of urgency, a number of seizures were made on the suspects’ private property and vehicles – 11 properties with a total market value of around € 315,000 and three cars with a total market value of around € 30,000. The investigation into the criminal proceedings is ongoing.