Police investigators. G.C.
Police smash network and make 29 arrests in holiday rental property scam in Spain

Police smash network and make 29 arrests in holiday rental property scam in Spain

Guardia Civil officers have dismantled a criminal organisation which was allegedly being run by a man serving a prison sentence

Europa Press

Monday, 3 April 2023, 14:11


Spain's Guardia Civil police force has taken down a criminal organisation which scammed holidaymakers into charging them deposits for vacation rentals in advance.

The operation was led by a man from prison, with officers arresting 29 people and investigating 13 others.

Within the operation, called 'Rent Scam', more than 128 alleged scams were committed across Spain, particularly targeting the province of Madrid. The network was made up of 42 people, 30 men and 12 women.

According to the Guardia Civil in a statement, the arrests were carried out in the provinces of Madrid, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Pontevedra, A Coruña, Valencia, Alicante, Castellón, Ibiza, Bilbao, Santander, Huelva, Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, Murcia, Barcelona and Tarragona.

All the members of the group are charged with computer fraud, membership of a criminal organisation, identity theft and money laundering.

The police operation started in September last year when the Guardia Civil detected an increase in complaints related to vacation scams on various specialised platforms and websites.

With the information provided by the victims, officers investigated the pages where the accommodation properties were being offered.

Police were able to verify that the culprits had inserted ads on legal platforms and pages in which they offered accommodation at a lower price than the market value to capture the attention of the victims, and subsequently charging them the money in advance.

Police also established that the network operated in different sub-groups and was led by a man with a long criminal record for computer fraud, and who directed them from a prison where he is currently serving a sentence.

Locations with attractive properties

Members of one part of the organisation moved to the locations where there were attractive properties, taking photographs of them, which were then used by another subgroup, which was responsible for uploading the ads.

Another cell was in charge of collecting false documentation to open bank accounts where the money from the scams would end up.

There was also a network of 'mules' in charge of transferring the proceeds of the crime between other bank accounts, making it difficult for police to trace the money, while another group was in charge of making cash withdrawals at ATM cash machines, the Guardia Civil said.

In addition to the arrests, the operation also led to several raids where officers seized numerous computers, electronic devices and documents.

Police blocked more than 75 bank accounts in total as part of the investigation.

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