FIVE people have been arrested by the National Police force for suspected villa rental fraud in Marbella.
The suspects allegedly created a website offering luxury villas for holiday rentals at very competitive prices. Although the villas actually existed their legitimate owners had no idea their properties were being offered for rent, the police force said in a statement.
The group asked for 50 per cent of the rental price by bank transfer to book and the remainder four weeks in advance of the dates reserved, yet when customers arrived nobody turned up to hand over the keys.
The suspected group-leader was arrested when he was travelling towards the airport, and victims could have handed over more than half a million euros.
Investigations began in June, when the first of nine official complaints were lodged with the police.
Victims reported that when they arrived in Marbella nobody appeared to hand over keys and emails and phone calls were not answered.
The investigators reported that the group allegedly worked though a website under the name of a company created with false documentation and kept advance payments, sending a 79-year-old former bank employee to withdraw the cash from the bank account customers paid into.
One of the victims who have placed complaints paid €55,000 to book two villas and later travelled to Marbella and found that, although the villas existed, their owners knew nothing of the bookings. Altogether the amounts reported by the victims, all from abroad, total €95,000. Yet transactions in the suspects’ bank accounts led investigators to suspect the group may have pocketed about €500,000 from other victims who have not yet placed official complaints in Spain.
Searches carried out in Marbella led to the confiscation of €35,000 in cash and a car valued at €250,000 and the police have placed blocks on the group’s bank accounts.
Three of those arrested have been remanded in custody by a judge as investigations continue.