Saturday, March 21, 2015

Huge Timeshare Fraud gang arrested in southern Spain

56 Brits arrested in Southern Spain after huge Timeshare fraud crackdown UK timeshare gang 'who made £4million a year duping up to 500 Britons in elaborate scam' is smashed in Costa del Sol Spanish police arrest 56 Britons following a series of Costa del Sol raids Investigators have so far uncovered 500 victims of the timeshare scam Majority of the victims are pensioners - and police fear there may be thousands more who will never be identified Scam involved calls from fake lawyers convincing victims to sell property Fraudsters then exploited the elderly ex-pats' ignorance of Spanish law to convince them to pay fake 'admin' charges of up to £35,000

 Timeshare fraudsters duped thousands of British victims out of more than £4million a year in a well-honed criminal operation smashed by Spanish police. Police chiefs today announced that they have arrested 56 people - all Brits, including the three alleged leaders - and uncovered 500 mostly pensioner victims. And they said they feared thousands more would now be identified following a series of Costa del Sol raids against the gang which had been operating for more than five years. Detectives detailed the lengths the fraudsters went to dupe victims into handing over cash at a press conference in Malaga this morning.

The three-tier scam involved calls from fake lawyers and court officials who persuaded their victims to hand over up to £35,000 after being conned into selling their timeshares. The chief alleged ringleader, a Brit living in the resort of Mijas, had three homes and a boat and drove two luxury cars he is thought to have bought with his ill-gotten gains. Nearly 80 bank accounts linked to the gang have been frozen and six vehicles seized along with the boat and properties valued at nearly £600,000. Lead investigator,

Inspector Mercedes Perez Quesada, said: 'The fraud was three-fold. 'Telesales operators contacted potential victims and offered them attractive prices to sell their timeshare properties and took advantage of their ignorance of Spanish law once they'd been tempted to instruct them to pay things like administrative or public notary fees. 'Any excuse to get money out of them was valid. 'Once victims had been conned and knew they were never going to get their money back, a second group of people would call claiming to be lawyers saying they were going to launch a group action on behalf of victims and asking once again for money upfront. 'The third tier involved people posing as court officials ringing victims and saying cases had been resolved in their favour but they had to pay fees so they could obtain their cash settlements.

'The scam sounds very crude but we estimate the fraudsters were making between £35 and £35,000 from victims and the fraud was netting between £3.5 million and £4.5 million a year. 'The telesales operators were at the bottom rung of the fraud but knew exactly what was going on. 'The next level up were front men paid to open bank accounts so it made it more difficult to find out where the money had gone. 'They would receive commissions on the transfers of up to £360...Money collectors working for the three alleged ringleaders would collect up to £2,150 from each front man on a daily basis and pass it on to their paymasters.

 'The leaders were the brains behind the operation and the final recipients of the money... They started the operation we have smashed in 2009. The alleged ringleaders, who have not been named, are suspected of laundering the multi-million pound proceeds of their fraud through bars and restaurants on the Costa del Sol. Much of the money had been banked in offshore accounts. Two of the three alleged leaders were arrested along with 36 other suspects in raids in February during the first phase of the operation. The man police say is the ringleader was detained in a second phase after returning to Spain from the UK. A judge at a court in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola is now coordinating an ongoing criminal investigation. He is probing 11 companies believed to have been set up to facilitate the fraud.

Two men including the alleged ringleader have been remanded in jail after a closed court hearing and the remainder released on bail. None of the suspects have been formally charged as is customary under Spanish law, but are being probed on suspicion of money laundering, fraud and membership of a criminal gang. Inspector Perez said: 'We know so far this organisation defrauded 500 British victims out of money but we expect there are thousands of victims.' Police also admitted the alleged ringleader had been arrested before for similar offences. They were not able to say whether he had been convicted in court. Malaga police chief Pedro Garijo Torres said: 'We don't want to comment on things that escape our control. 'The important thing for us was the police operation which is of huge significance in an area like Malaga whose economy relies so heavily on tourism and foreign visitors.' Government spokesman for the area Jorge Hernandez Mollar described the police operation, involving financial crime specialists from Madrid and Malaga, as 'brilliant.'