NATIONAL POLICE have arrested 52 people, 49 of who are from Elche, for conning €15 million from more than 150,000 small businesses and self-employed people by pretending to be members of State Security.
According to police sources, the suspects offered their victims ad placements in magazines at low-cost prices when in reality said magazines were not being distributed.
The con managed to hide its true purpose through a network of over 30 web pages and 60 businesses which disguised its real activity and laundered the profits.
The police operation has resulted in 52 arrests, including three lawyers. The majority of the suspects – 49 – are from Elche.
Officers searched eight homes in Elche and seized €46,000 in cash, seven computer servers, 31 hard discs, three cars and a moped. They also blocked the assets and bank accounts of 32 people and businesses.
Investigations began two years ago and the subsequent raids have allowed the analysis of large amounts of data which implicates the fraudsters.
It is estimated that the con could have resulted in some 150,000 victims throughout Spain over the last 14 years.
The con artists lured their victims into paying for advertisements to appear in magazines for a much lower price than normal.
The publications which were produced were of poor quality, but given the appearance of having the backing of police and government agencies.
The fraudsters had their victims believe that the magazines would be distributed within official police and security institutions, but in reality copies were only sent to the victims.
Over 30 websites and more than 100 contact numbers were disguised as official State Security backed entities, and helped provide an air of legitimacy to the operation.