A police operation investigating a cybercriminal gang that emptied thousands of bank accounts led to the arrests of 14 over the weekend. Among those detained by the police was a garbage collector from the central Anatolian province of Afyonkarahisar, who had no idea there was more than a million liras in a bank account opened under his name.
According to reports, the police operation named "El Nino," initiated by the Istanbul Police Department Cybercrime Division, investigated a gang that withdrew about TL 10 million (over $3.4 million) from unsuspecting bank customers.
The gang rented an office in Afyonkarahisar in the name of a truck driver, whose body was discovered in an unused well in 2012. The gang then rented several 0850 toll-free telephone numbers used by retail companies from a telecommunication firm in Istanbul. Unsuspecting bank customers were called from the numbers and deceived by gang members who told them that fees charged for insurance and credit applications would be deposited into their accounts. The gang used the account numbers and passwords thus obtained to make purchases abroad or transferred money to their own accounts and withdrew them from ATMs. According to reports, up to 300,000 people were called within the space of two months, with the gang netting around TL 10 million. The police said around 9,500 people were deceived into losing their savings.Last week police launched coordinated raids in Istanbul and Afyonkarahisar, detaining a total of 15 people.
The most surprising discovery was the detention of a garbage collector in Afyonkarahisar, who was clueless that the gang was transferring some of the money they defrauded into a bank account established in his name. He was given TL 1,200 per month by the gang as hush money. The garbage collector was doing his normal morning rounds in Afyonkarahisar when the police came to detain him, telling him that there was over TL 1.5 million in his account. The shocked garbage collector admitted to allowing the gang to use his name, but told the police he had no idea how it was used. Gang members, meanwhile, were living a life of luxury, spending the money in casinos located in northern Cyprus and sharing photographs of their escapades.On Saturday, an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of the 14 gang members, all of whom are said to have refused to talk to the police.
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