Twelve people linked to a cyber crime syndicate appeared in the Pretoria magistrate’s court on Wednesday, the SABC reported.
They allegedly defrauded people of their money globally using fake credit card information. Last Tuesday, 12 people were arrested in Pretoria and 10 in the US and Canada, authorities from the three countries said.
The arrests followed a joint operation by the Hawks, crime intelligence, the South African Tactical Response Team, the home affairs department and Interpol, US immigration and customs enforcement and homeland security investigations.
Twelve people were arrested in Pretoria on Tuesday while another eight were arrested in the US and Canada, authorities from the three countries said in a joint statement.
“The suspects, 11 Nigerians and one South African woman, are linked to this global scam. The suspects enriched themselves with illegally obtained funds,” authorities said in a statement after the arrests were made.
During the operation, investigators seized computers, laptops, cellphones, notebooks and documents.
Homeland security investigations Pretoria attaché Abraham Lugo said the HSI believed that by working with the South African government to dismantle the transnational mass marketing criminal organisations, they would bring the perpetrators to justice and recoup the victims’ losses.
“Our collaboration with the South African Police Service, Interpol and other government agencies will also increase public awareness of these crimes and hopefully will prevent people from falling victim to these schemes in the future,” he said.
Head of the Hawks Anwa Dramat said the arrests were a ramification of the collaboration between South African Police Service and America’s HSI. “If criminals are able to interact with their fellows across the borders, we can do it better,” said Dramat.
The arrests were as a result of the homeland security investigations special agents following a financial fraud scam to Sunnyside, Pretoria. The US federal charges allege that a West African transnational organised crime enterprise was involved in numerous complex financial fraud schemes over the Internet.
The fraud included romance scams, reshipping scams, fraudulent check scams, work-at-home scams, along with bank, financial and credit card account takeovers.
The investigation was initiated by homeland security special agents in October 2011, after US law enforcement was contacted by a female victim in Mississippi, who was a victim in one of the scams. She allegedly received a suspicious package in the mail requesting her to reship the merchandise to an address in Pretoria, South Africa.
During investigations, it was found that the merchandise was purchased using stolen personal identity information and fraudulent credit card information of persons in the US.
The syndicate is said to have operated for some years purchasing shipping labels from the US Postal Service, Federal Express, United Parcel Service and DHL with fraudulent credit card information or stolen identities.
Once the merchandise reached South Africa, the group advertised it for sale on the Internet.
The magistrate’s court on Wednesday postponed the matter to 12 June. — Sapa