The Italian Carabinieri Corps (Carabinieri Reggio Calabria), supported by Europol, dismantled a criminal organisation involved in a number of criminal activities including fraud, sexual exploitation and money laundering. The investigation also involved law enforcement authorities from Germany, the Netherlands and Romania.
Love trickery targets lonely men aged between 70 and 90
The family-based criminal gang, composed predominantly of Romanian nationals, targeted elderly victims based in the South Italian region of Calabria. The criminal network used young women employed as domestic workers to defraud the elderly. These young women would be tasked with convincing their elderly male customers to lend them large sums. Often, they engaged in a physical relationship with the elderly man while using a different pretext for asking financial help, such as personal health problems or sickness of a family member.
The criminal gang had a specific target in mind, targeting males aged between 70 and 90 years and often living isolated from other members of their family. In some cases, victims would be extorted if they declined paying the requested amounts. In one case, a victim suffered two heart attacks after one young woman secretly administered him with Valium to facilitate the robbery of his house.
The victims would transfer large sums to the women; just one of the victims lost almost EUR 20 000 because of this trickery. Other members of the criminal group would collect the money and then wire it to Romania via different money transfer services. The criminal assets were then laundered in Romania through investments in real estate, vehicles and gold. The investigation estimates that the criminal gang managed to gain more than EUR one million though this criminal activity. During the investigation, law enforcement identified 56 members of the criminal gang, with 16 of them being key actors in the scheme. Investigators localised a number of these suspects in Romania, Germany and links to the Netherlands.
The action day on 19 May led to:
- 23 house searches (13 in Italy, 2 in Germany and 8 in Romania)
- 13 arrests (4 in Italy, 2 in Germany and 7 in Romania)
- The seizures so far include electronic equipment and documents
Europol supported the case since 2020 by facilitating the exchange of information. Europol’s financial investigation team also provided specialised analytical support, including the analysis of financial flows wired through money transfer services. On the action day, Europol deployed two experts in Italy and Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real-time and provide leads to investigators in the field.