Fraud officers target payment diversion fraud and money mules in latest operation
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Officers from the force’s Economic Crime Unit (ECU) targeted multiple addresses last month in a bid to identify those responsible for fraud and exploiting vulnerable individuals.
Last week ECU officers, supported by the Force Priority Team, digital media investigators and the modern slavery team, executed warrants at 15 addresses across Leicester and one address in Derbyshire.
The aim of the enforcement was to identify and safeguard individuals who were believed to be laundering money on behalf of organised criminals involved in high value frauds.
Four people were identified and are currently assisting police with their investigations and being supported by specialist agencies.
Criminals need money mules to launder the profits of their crimes. Usually the mules will be unaware of where the money comes from, they can be approached online, including via social media sites, or in person. Sometimes they may be persuaded by people who are doing it themselves, or on the pretence of finding employment for the mule, before their details are used to commit the money laundering.
More than £15 million of money obtained from fraud is believed to have been laundered in this way and the funds mainly dissipate overseas.
The same team of officers were also involved in executing three warrants in the Leicester, Highfields and Braunstone areas, in relation to an investigation into payment diversion fraud.
A company in Leicester was the victim of this fraud in June last year when they were contacted via email by someone claiming to be a supplier who wished to change the bank details the company held for them.
Unfortunately, the details were changed on the company’s database and on four occasions payments were made into the fraudulent account, resulting in a fraud of almost £60,000.
Three people were arrested on Friday 25 March. A 26-year-old woman and two men, aged 45 and 24, were arrested on suspicion of Proceeds of Crime Act offences. They have all since been released pending further enquiries.
A fourth person, a 31-year-old woman, will be voluntarily interviewed in connection with the investigation at a later date.
A quantity of cryptocurrency assets was also seized during the operation.
Nicole McIntyre from the force’s ECU was involved in the enforcement activity, she said: “What is obvious from these investigations is that opportunist thieves will use any means to exploit individuals and companies for their own gain.
“We encourage people to remain vigilant around these offences. Companies are encouraged to double-check any requests to change bank account details with the company directly and not act on emails or post alone.
“Any post coming to individual’s addresses, particularly in relation to bank accounts or utility bills addressed to someone not living at the location, should be dealt with cautiously. You should report this activity back to that bank or utility company, and they will be able to put a marker on so the activity cannot continue. This will help us to disrupt and prevent further offending. If the activity is of a more concerning nature, you can report to Action Fraud or to us via 101 or report online at www.leics.police.uk.
“We will continue to carry out operations of this nature and disrupt the activities of these organised criminals.”
Last month payment diversion fraud was also the subject of a national campaign led by the National Crime Agency. The campaign aimed to educate and raise awareness of this type of fraud and the steps people needed to take to reduce their chances of becoming a victim.