Spanish police have dismantled a criminal organisation that scammed holidaymakers by charging them deposits for vacation rentals in advance which they did not own. 

The ‘Rent Scam’ operation, whose mastermind ran the scheme from prison, led to the arrest of 29 people, with 13 others currently under investigation. 

The network carried out over 128 alleged scams across Spain, targeting the province of Madrid in particular. 

The gang consisted of 42 people – a quarter of whom were women – and operated in different teams led by a jailbird with a history of computer fraud.

Every gang member has been charged with computer fraud, membership of a criminal organisation, identity theft and money laundering.

Arrests were carried out in dozens of cities across Spain, including Huelva, Cadiz, Malaga, Granada.

The culprits inserted ads on legal platforms and pages offering accommodation at a lower price than the market value to attract victims, and subsequently charged them money in advance. 

Some members of the organisation moved to the locations where there were attractive properties and took photographs, which were then used by another subgroup responsible for uploading the ads. 

Another cell collected false documentation to open bank accounts where the money from the scams would end up.

Police blocked more than 75 bank accounts and seized numerous computers, electronic devices and documents as part of the operation. 

All members of the group are charged with computer fraud, membership of a criminal organisation, identity theft and money laundering. 

The police operation began in September 2022 after the Guardia Civil detected an increase in complaints related to vacation scams on various specialised platforms and websites.

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