The family clan active in this area can be credited with at least four accomplished deeds in which victims in Germany were relieved of a total of over one million euros. The main perpetrator was convicted in Vienna in September.
The official act took its course in January of the previous year. Officials from the Central Criminal Inspectorate (ZKI) 32/gang crime of the police headquarters in Southeast Hesse in Offenbach increasingly noticed the activities of rip dealers who targeted real estate providers. They found that at least four victims were relieved in the course of the first half of 2021. And in the course of their investigations they found out that an Austrian group was probably behind the fraud. So they turned on the Rip-Deal Unit Vienna, as Gerald Goldnagl and Valentin Szaga-Doktor explained to journalists on Tuesday. The “EV Wallet” operation began.
In the course of the extensive investigations, it was prevented that other potential sellers contacted by the scammers were relieved of money. In addition, the 34-year-old prime suspect, an Austrian citizen with Serbian roots, and a 31-year-old Serbian citizen, operating from the Vienna suburbs, were identified as members of the clan family. To this end, the investigators, in cooperation with their Offenbach colleagues and other departments, including Europol, Eurojust and Interpol, but also police departments in Italy, identified six other members of the group who were not known by name.
Main perpetrator already sentenced to four years in prison
The main perpetrator was finally arrested in Rome in June this year and extradited to Austria, where he was sentenced to four years in prison in Wiener Neustadt in September after a comprehensive confession. The group proceeded in such a way that they acted as business partners and representatives of prospective buyers and demanded a commission of around ten percent to be paid via cryptocurrency for brokering the sale of the property. They set up a so-called wallet for the victims, who are usually not so familiar with Bitcoin and Co. – or at least supported them in doing so – and thus gained access to the passwords.
The victims should put the agreed commission in the respective blockchain and send a screenshot to the perpetrators, who had previously provided fake evidence of the alleged transmission of the sum for the property. With the illegally obtained passwords for the wallets, the fraudsters withdrew the bitcoins, the promised contract for the sale never came, and there was no money for the property either. In one case, the deceived was poorer by 700,000 euros, it was about a finca in Spain. Another detail: the widely related perpetrators had trained a minor who pretended to be a woman as a facilitator.
lured victims abroad
The rest of the rip deal was “classic”. The victims were lured abroad, where the wealth of the alleged buyers was demonstrated to them with expensive clothes and luxury watches and they were courted with top-class hotels, luxury restaurants and limousines of the same kind. Of course, the victims didn’t have to pay a cent for this service. In some cases, the victims of rip dealers are granted a side business with a small profit in the course of such trust-building meetings, Goldnagl and Szaga-Doktor described.
The other three completed fraud cases involved around 200,000, around 100,000 and around 50,000 euros. The total damage was 1,056,000 euros. The defrauded usually see nothing more of the money. The stolen sums are quickly divided and laundered among those involved.
So far more than ten million euros in damage
Incidentally, rip deals are not a new phenomenon, as Goldnagl explained. This form of crime has been observed for about 40 years. But finding victims has become a lot easier in the internet age. The Rip-Deal Unit Vienna was officially founded in May 2020 after three spectacular cases. It analyzes cases all over Europe – so far 443. The investigations into domestic cases supervised by the unit have so far involved more than ten million euros in damage. The unit is currently involved in 87 cases. The unit is responsible for 14 arrests, five of the suspects are in custody abroad. 63 were explored. Cases with 14.6 million euros in damage were resolved.