THE National Police have arrested five people for illegally occupying rental and holiday home properties in Spain’s Costa Blanca region and then extorting cash from the owners in order to leave.
Five people aged between 20 and 44 targeted empty homes in the Orihuela area, often forcing their way through the front door to begin an illegal occupation.
The Spanish gang set up a rota system where at least one of them was always staying at their latest target.
The rest of the crew then asked for money from the owners, or their families and even the neighbours to persuade them to move on.
The squatters had a tariff system where the final sum of what they were going to extort rose with a promise that they would leave a property in good condition.
The National Police said that some individual payments were as high as €6,000.
Besides the squatting, the gang members made life difficult for any neighbours and behaved in an anti-social way, though always in a non-violent manner, to see if residents were prepared to pay them to leave.
The illegal occupations continued during the State of Alarm, and some of the gang members had even been sanctioned for breaking the strict lockdown rules.
Investigations revealed that none of the Spaniards had a job, but their squatting activities ensured them of a good income.
The gang was found to have committed the same offences in other areas of Spain, and have been charged with extortion and belonging to a criminal organisation.