Police in Latvia and Lithuania swoop on bogus call centers

Dozens of people suspected of involvement with international call center fraud schemes have been detained simultaneously in an international operation involving Latvia and Lithuania, the Latvian State Police said March 29. 

In total, three fraudulent call centers have been shut down – two of them in Latvia and one in Lithuania. A total of 80 people were detained in Latvia, with 14 people currently recognized as suspects, the State Police told journalists at a press conference, LTV reported.

In February last year, the State Police Cybercrime Division initiated criminal proceedings for large-scale or organized group fraud and large-scale or organized money laundering. During the investigation, it was established that an organized criminal group was operating in Latvia, carrying out large-scale fraudulent activities on the Internet. Specifically, through various websites, fraudsters offered people non-existent financial instruments, including virtual currency and services related to transactions with these financial instruments.

Fraudsters searched for and addressed potential customers in various languages: Russian, English, Polish and Hindi. Communication took place by telephone as well as other communication channels.

Clients were allegedly persuaded that legitimate trading was taking place on their behalf and were encouraged to plough more money into their investments. However, as soon as clients expressed a desire to withdraw their funds, communications were shut down and no money was refunded.

Police even provided dramatic video images of the call centers being raided.

Members of an organized crime group also used companies registered in Latvia to conceal and disguise illegal activities, as well as to launder illegally obtained funds, police believe.

Last week, on 24 March, the State Police arrested members of the organized criminal group in an international operation in cooperation with Europol and Eurojust. Searches have also been carried out at several addresses, including two call centers in Rīga. At the same time, coordinated searches were carried out by Lithuanian law enforcement authorities in Vilnius, Lithuania.

During the criminal proceedings, 20 searches were performed in different places in Latvia. Servers, laptops, cellphones, storage media, memory cards, documents, notes, and other objects were removed during these searches.

The investigation identified 14 suspects, including ten Latvian citizens, two Belarusian citizens, one Ukrainian citizen and one Uzbek citizen. On March 25 and 26 this year, the court imposed remanded four of the suspects in detention. The other ten are subject to non-custodial security measures.

In addition, more than 70 call center staff have also been identified as responsible for attracting new customers.

Police said they had frozen 25 bank accounts in Latvia and abroad, and seized shares in four companies, three luxury vehicles, four properties and virtual currency worth more than 100,000 dollars.

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