European and U.S. authorities arrested in separate operations hundreds and identified thousands of so-called money mules – people who assist fraudsters by receiving money from victims and forwarding it to the fraud organizers – and their recruiters.
Europol said in a statement that law enforcement in 26 countries identified some 4,031 ‘money mules,’ 227 recruiters and made 422 arrests during the so-called European Money Mule Action (EMMA), the sixth of its kind.
The ‘mules’ are often unwittingly recruited through advertisements for fake job opportunities and other scams.
“Unaware that they are engaging in criminal activities, and tricked by the promise of easy money, mules transfer stolen funds between accounts, often in different countries, on behalf of others. In exchange, they receive a commission for their services,” the statement said.
During the span of the operation, 1,529 criminal investigations were initiated.
“With the support of the private sector including more than 500 banks and financial institutions, 4,942 fraudulent money mule transactions were identified, preventing a total loss estimated at €33.5 million (US$40 million),” the statement said.
In a parallel operation in the U.S., authorities identified some 2,300 mules, a statement from the Department of Justice said.
“Detecting and disrupting the work of money mules is critically important, as money mules are integral components of many organized criminal groups, including international fraud rings and transnational drug trafficking organizations,” said Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
By David Klein, December 4, 2020, published on OCCRP