29 Apr, 2024 @ 12:45
2 mins read

‘Sextortion’ crackdown in Valencia: Dozens are arrested after ‘targeting 100-plus victims online’

'Sextortion' crackdown in Valencia: Dozens are arrested after 'targeting 100-plus victims online'

A VALENCIA gang extorted money from over 100 people across Spain who responded to bogus ads promoting meetings with sex workers.

They made at least €250,000 from the scam, with 34 people arrested in Valencia province by the Guardia Civil, and 27 more being investigated.

Most of the victims did not report what happened due to fear of retribution.

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SOME OF THE ARRESTS

The criminal crew registered over 500 phone numbers for their plot by using fake identities.

They ran fictitious ads via online dating platforms with clients making calls to an alleged brothel to arrange a meet, only to be reeled in with demands for high amounts of money.

The organisation got hold of as much personal information from the victims as possible to blackmail them later for not having gone through with a hook-up.

One of their targets was an elderly woman in her 70s with Alzheimer’s disease while another person needed specialist psychiatric treatment for several months.

Another victim was kidnapped in Benasal, Castellon province, and bundled into a van.

A plastic bag was placed over her head and a large knife held to her neck, as she was forced to go to her bank to withdraw all of her money.

Phone calls were made to victims by the criminals pretending to be East European mafias who were angry that they had their time wasted.

Fake videos were sent of people being tortured for refusing to pay, as well as images of men brandishing firearms or large machetes.

Some victims literally cleared out their bank accounts and had to take out loans to carry on paying the gang.

The money was laundered by the organisation, employing ‘mules’ who got paid to accept bank transfers from victims into their accounts.

One of the gang leaders used gambling and betting stores to further launder the money that had been transferred into mule accounts.

Cash dispensing machines available in such businesses were used to circumvent normal ATM withdrawal limits.

Seven house searches were carried out in Valencia, Burjassot, Alfafar, Sedavi and Tous, where 50 mobile phones, bank cards, €6,505 in cash, 180 grams of hashish, 281 grams of marijuana and 164 grams of amphetamines were removed.

IMPOUNDED PHONES

Also seized were banned weapons and spy cameras.

Jewellery, watches, computers and electronic equipment were taken by the Guardia Civil, along with false documents and bank cards that had name of either the victims or the mules used by the crew.

The extensive list of charges facing gang members include belonging to a criminal organization, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, causing injury, fraud, robbery with violence, falsification of documents, the illegal possession of weapons and drugs possession.

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