Police nab scammers who targeted Brits

Police from Spain, the UK and Serbia have arrested 110 people around Europe in a sting operating targeting scammers who defrauded UK investors of millions of euros, new information shows.

Police nab scammers who targeted Brits
Cars including Ferraris, Mustangs, Mercedes and this Aston Martin belonging to suspects were seized by police. Photo: City of London Police

Police say the 'boiler room' network operated fake share scams in which at least 850 British people were cheated out of  £15 million ($18.25 million) in exchange for non-existent or worthless investments.

Raids on illegal financial dealers in Barcelona, Madrid, Marbella and London led to the arrests, information released recently shows.

Spanish daily El País reported that US police were also involved in the two-year international investigation which resulted in 35 arrest warrants.

City of London Police Commander, and National Economic Crime Co-ordinator, Steve Head, said: "This is a landmark both from an investigative perspective and in terms of our close working partnership with other law enforcement agencies, most notably the Policía Nacional."

“It is our most important investigation ever, targeting people we believe are at the top of an organized crime network that has been facilitating boiler rooms across Europe and which is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud," he added.

Spain has long been a centre for fraudulent expat operations of this type but the raids are the biggest crackdown on them yet seen.

According to a City of London police statement, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes and Mustang cars were seized plus designer clothes and £500,000 in cash.

The suspects, one of whom was believed to be paying £50,000 rent on a luxury apartment, are expected to be extradited to the UK to face trial.  

Details of the case and arrests were embargoed by a Spanish court until this week.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join The Local on Facebook and Twitter.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain’s ‘2,000-tumour man’ sentenced for scamming donors

A Spaniard known as "the man with 2,000 tumours" who lied about having terminal cancer was handed a two-year jail term Monday for scamming donations from thousands, including celebrities.

Spain's '2,000-tumour man' sentenced for scamming donors
De Cedecejj - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Paco Sanz, 50, appeared regularly on television and social media between 2010 and 2017, claiming to have nearly 2,000 tumours as a result of Cowden syndrome.

Saying he had only months to live, he appealed for donations via his web page, through text messages and even a charity gala.   

Although he did suffer from the syndrome, all his tumours were benign and posed no threat to his life.

Prosecutors say the former security guard collected just under €265,000 ($319,000) before being arrested in March 2017 in the eastern Valencia region.   

Among those who sent him money were popular television presenter Jorge Javier Vazquez and Spanish footballer Alvaro Negredo.    

Prosecutors accused Sanz of “taking advantage of his illness” to “obtain illegal funding”.

They said he presented the disease as being “much more serious than it really was” and of falsely claiming he could only be saved if he got experimental treatment in the United States.   

In reality, he travelled to the US to take part in a free clinical trial and “all his costs were covered” by the firm running it, prosecutors added.    

In video obtained by Spanish media at the time of his arrest, Sanz could be seen joking with his girlfriend and family members about the lies he was telling.

As his trial opened in Madrid on Monday, Sanz pleaded guilty to fraud, receiving a two-year jail sentence, while his girlfriend was sentenced to a year and nine months for being his accomplice.

But they are not likely to serve time behind bars, as sentences below two years are usually suspended in Spain for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes.

The trial will continue so the court can determine how much money the pair owe in damages.

READ ALSO: Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam