Modern day highwaymen posed as police officers to rob unsuspecting travellers – Olive Press exclusive
A GANG that passed themselves off as police officers to prey on drivers of cars on foreign licence plates has been broken.
In simultaneous raids around Spain, police arrested 28 Pakistan and Iranian immigrants who posed as bogus police officers.
Wearing police uniforms and carrying fake identification, the gang is believed to have targeted northern Europeans on the two ring roads around Madrid and the main road between the capital and the country’s southern coast.
Victims of the gang were forced to pull over onto the hard shoulder of either the M30 or M40 roads before being physically attacked and robbed.
In the last known case before the gang was arrested, a car of French holidaymakers was targeted near the satellite town of Getafe.
In a white Alfa Romero, the fake police officers pulled alongside the tourists as they were driving along the A4 Madrid-Andalucía road and asked them to pull over onto the hard shoulder.
After showing a false ID card, a member of the gang demanded to see the holidaymakers’ passports before stealing almost 4,000 euros in cash from the tourists.
The gang is also believed to have used a blue Ford Mondeo (see below) and a white Citroën Xantia – three models of car not authorised for use by either the Policia Nacional or the Guardia Civil police forces.
A police spokesman confirmed the arrests in Alicante, Barcelona and Murica. He told the Olive Press the gang is wanted in connection with a total of 70 robberies involving travellers in foreign-plated vehicles – but warned the true number of victims could be higher.
“The problem is that many tourists do not know how our laws work. Many victims of the gang report what has happened to their embassy or consulate when they arrive at their ultimate destination and not to the police,” he said.
During the arrests police confiscated 45,000 euros and 4,500 US dollars in cash, 26 vehicles used in the robberies and fake police uniforms and identification cards.
Although there have been no recent reports of drivers being targeted by bogus police officers, the Foreign Office is still advising vigilance on Spanish roads.
A British Embassy spokesman told the Olive Press: “Police received about five or six reports every week by victims of these gangs as did we at the Embassy directly. But none since this gang was arrested.
“Drivers, especially on the M30 and M40 Madrid ring roads, should still be wary of approaches by bogus policemen, in plain clothes and travelling in unmarked cars. In all traffic-related matters, police officers will be in uniform and unmarked vehicles will have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window, which reads Policia or Guardia Civil.
“If in any doubt, drivers should converse through the car window and contact the Guardia Civil on 062 or the police on 112 and ask to confirm that the registration number on the vehicle corresponds to an official police vehicle.”
“He tried to rip a ring from my mother’s finger”
THE Olive Press’ Richard Riley tells of his chilling encounter with the bogus police gang. He says how he was forced onto the hard shoulder of a busy Madrid road before one of the “officers” tried to rip his elderly mother’s diamond ring from her finger.
“The whole episode was disturbing and I would never wish it on my worst enemy,” the 35-year-old business man says.
Riley was returning to the south of Spain last year after a brief trip to England to visit family and friends. With him in his UK-plated Toyota Hilux were his partner Juliet Coles and elderly mother, Elizabeth, 73.
“We were south of Madrid on the M40 ring road after a long, hard slog through France and northern Spain. We were driving quite fast, just wanting to return to our home near Granada.
“We soon noticed a dark blue Ford Mondeo building up speed behind us. It drew alongside and I saw the driver and three passengers, all smartly-dressed. The man in the passenger’s seat flashed an ID card at us and indicated we should follow him.
“The Mondeo went onto the inner ring road before pulling over onto the hard shoulder. We were all quite nervous that we had done something wrong and that we were dealing with genuine police men so we followed.”
The passenger then got out of the car while the other three bogus officers remained inside and approached Riley’s vehicle. The trio soon realised they had fallen victim to a gang of con artists.
“He flashed his identification once again and we thought it strange when he asked us if we were carrying any guns or US dollars. It was not the type of question you normally hear from the police.
“I think he knew that we had started to cotton on to him. We have heard this happening to some of our friends. He was very edgy and was continuously looking over his shoulder towards his accomplices,” he says.
Events took a chilling turn as Riley claims the bogus officer made a grab for his mother’s diamond ring.
“He asked to see our passports and, when my mother went to get hers from her handbag, the con artist noticed her diamond ring.
“He reached into the car and tried to rip it from her finger. Luckily after years of wear, it was wedged on too tightly.
“When we asked him what he was doing, he had the gall to say he was simply trying to turn the ring around so as to hide the jewels from prospective thieves.”
The father-of-one believes the trio was too shaken to notice the lack of photograph on the fake ID card.
“They waved their identification cards very quickly in our faces. It was only with hindsight did we realise they contained no photographs.
“The gang soon realised we were not rich pickings but before letting us go he had the audacity to say in broken English we should be on the look out for false police officers,” Riley said.