The British police on Friday arrested 110 people in the U.K., the U.S., Spain and Serbia for a “boiler-room” scam of fake shares and other fraudulent schemes worth 15 million pounds ($25 million), news reports said.
The British police reportedly said that this is the biggest international operation of its type and has for the past two years arrested real-life “wolves of Wall Street.” The arrested gangs are said to have tricked people into investing in worthless shares. Eighty-four people were detained in Spain, 20 in the U.K., two in the U.S. and four from Serbia, according to the BBC.
"It is our most important investigation ever, targeting people we believe are at the top of an organized-crime network that has been facilitating boiler rooms across Europe, and which is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud," Commander Steve Head, national economic crime coordinator, said, according to the BBC. The Financial Conduct Authority has estimated an annual loss of about £200 million ($335 million) due to boiler room frauds in U.K.
Most of the victims who were fooled by the scammers were older than 40 years of age. Police shut down 14 boiler rooms, the places from where they worked, two in Spain and one in Serbia, CNN reports.
An Aston Martin DB convertible, Ford Mustangs and Ferrari Spyder were seized by the police along with £500,000 ($837,000) in cash, during the raids in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, the Mirror reported. The international team issued 35 warrants for offices and the houses of the criminals’ arrested.
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“These people have no conscience in terms of what they do to people’s lives. This is not at all a victimless crime. We’ve seen lives that have been utterly devastated,” Head said, according to the Mirror.
The police team assigned to the case said that there were 850 confirmed victims who were victimized by the conmen, but could not arrive at a real figure for the total number, and said it could be in thousands.
"Discovering the fraud was shattering. I was left feeling isolated and it is difficult to explain how humiliated I feel," said 78-year-old Joan Mayer, who lost a six-figure sum to such scams, in a written statement, according to CNN.