Five foreign nationals charged with defrauding Australians
This is a joint media release between the AFP, New South Wales Police Force and Queensland Police Service
Five foreign nationals accused of flying to Australia to install ATM card skimmers to steal money and create fake bank cards have been charged in Sydney and Brisbane.
The alleged international crime syndicate is allegedly linked to five Romanian nationals charged by the United States Secret Service (USSS) in May 2023.
Two Romanian nationals, a man, 33, and a woman, 32, appeared in Parramatta Local Court on Saturday, 5 August 2023 charged with:
Producing a document, knowing the document was false or misleading and that the document was produced or purportedly produced under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act/Regulations/Rules, contrary to Section 137 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth);
Possession, making or providing false foreign travel documents, contrary to Section 22 of the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005; and
Possession or control of thing with intent to dishonestly obtain or deal in personal financial information, contrary to section 480.5 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
They are facing a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
They are next due in court on 25 October 2023.
A Romanian national, 37 and a Polish national, 21, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 4 August 2023 charged with:
Two counts of possessing equipment for the purpose of committing/facilitating the commission of an offence against section 408D, contrary to section 408D(1A) of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899 (Qld); and
One count each of obtaining or dealing with identification information and obstruct police, contrary to sections 408D and 340 of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899 (Qld).
They are facing a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
They are next due in court on 6 September 2023.
An additional Romanian national, 34, has been charged with two counts of possessing equipment for purpose of committing/facilitating the commission of an offence and obtaining or dealing with identification information.
He is facing a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment.
He is next due in Brisbane Magistrates Court on August 23.
In May 2023, the USSS arrested five Romanian nationals who were allegedly targeting individuals in the US who were receiving welfare benefits via Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.
The alleged offenders installed ATM skimmers to clone the victim’s EBT card details and PINs. It is also alleged that at the beginning of each month the syndicate re-encoded the cloned bank cards to visit ATMs and withdraw the newly loaded funds.
During a search of one of the alleged offenders, US authorities found a receipt for a consignment sent to Australia.
The AFP-led Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre (JPC3) began investigating the alleged organised crime syndicate in June 2023 after receiving a report from the USSS about the consignment.
JPC3 investigations identified that alleged syndicate members were operating in Australia and had allegedly received a number of suspicious packages believed to contain ATM skimmers sent from the United Kingdom, China and the US.
It is alleged one of the men used multiple fake identities to open bank accounts, subscribe to telecommunication services, and book short-term accommodation.
On Friday, 4 August 2023, the AFP and NSW Police executed a search warrant at a short-term rental property in Rhodes in Sydney’s inner west.
Police seized $12,935 in cash; multiple skimming devices; false identity documents, including passports, bank cards in other people’s names; electronic devices, card readers, sim cards and hand held electrical tools.
Through the JPC3’s collaboration with National Australia Bank and Queensland Police Service (QPS), the AFP identified a faction of the syndicate as allegedly operating in Brisbane.
The JPC3 and QPS identified an ATM location the syndicate would likely attend.
On 3 August, 2023, QPS Financial and Cyber Crime Group detectives observed the 37 year-old man and 21-year-old man approach the ATM and were subsequently arrested.
Officers executed a search warrant on an Upper Mount Gravatt property the following day (4 August, 2023) where they arrested the 34-year-old man.
AFP Detective Superintendent Tim Stainton said the AFP, through the JPC3, worked tirelessly with partners to identify and charge members of the alleged organised crime syndicate.
“Australia remains a lucrative target for cybercriminals and in this digital age, we know that personal data has become incredibly valuable to criminals,’’ Det-Supt Stainton said.
"The AFP and our law enforcement partners will charge criminals who steal from hard-working Australians and bring offenders before the courts.
“This investigation is a great example of the work the JPC3 does. The collaboration between the USSS, banks and state and territory police partners has prevented cyber criminals from scamming, stealing and defrauding innocent Australians.”
US Secret Service Attaché for Australia and New Zealand, Ike Barnes said this investigation highlighted how collaboration between international law enforcement partners enabled the disruption of transnational organized criminal groups that target innocent citizens.
“The Secret Service is proud to partner with the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police Force, and the Queensland Police Services to investigate and pursue cases of cybercrime,” Mr Barnes said.
The JPC3 is a partnership between the AFP, Australian State policing agencies, foreign law enforcement, government and the private sector that was established in March 2022 to effectively combat cybercrime impacting Australians.
NSW Police Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft, Commander of State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad said collaboration with our partner agencies was key to success in cybercrime investigations.
“This investigation demonstrates the ability of law enforcement to quickly share information nationally – and internationally – to ultimately stop alleged offenders,” Det Supt Craft said.
“The examination of these exhibits will also certainly allow police to improve our targeting of this type of offending in future investigations.”
QPS Financial and Cyber Crime Group Commander, Detective Superintendent Craig McGrath said these arrests were an example of the QPS’ commitment to disrupt and prevent organised crime, and the impact it has on the community.
“This investigation has stopped alleged scammers from defrauding unsuspecting members of the public, and I applaud all investigators from across jurisdictions in the prompt collaboration that put these men before the court,” Detective Superintendent McGrath said.
If you believe you have fallen victim to cybercrime, you should immediately report to police using ReportCyber at cyber.gov.au.
If you are concerned that your identity has been compromised, contact the national identity and cyber support service IDCARE at www.idcare.org.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297