US Indicts Cyber-Criminals’ Eastern European Money Launderers | Balkan Insight | Rain Maker Bulgaria - Business Development for Secure Industries
A grand jury in Pennsylvania in the US has charged 14 members of a transnational syndicate known as QQAAZZ – some of whom come from Bulgaria and Romania – over charges that they conspired to launder money stolen from victims of computer fraud in the US and other countries.
Six other alleged QQAAZ affiliates were indicted by US justice on similar charges in previous months.
The criminal organisation “comprised of several layers of members, from Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Belgium, among other countries,” the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.
The crime syndicate “opened and maintained hundreds of corporate and personal bank accounts at financial institutions throughout the world to receive money from cyber-criminals who stole it from bank accounts of victims,” it added.
After transferring the money to other QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts, the cash was sometimes converted into cryptocurrency to hide the original source of the funds.
According to the US Justice Department, the syndicate took “a fee of up to 40 to 50 per cent” from the cyber-criminals.
US authorities acted in coordination with Europol and the national law enforcement agencies of 15 European countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Georgia and the Czech Republic.
Police conducted more than 40 house raids in Latvia, Bulgaria, the UK, Spain and Italy and prosecutions have started in the US, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
“The largest number of searches and arrests were carried out in Latvia …, and an extensive bitcoin mining operation … was seized in Bulgaria,” the US statement reads.
Most of the defendants named in the indictment unsealed on Thursday are from Latvia. Among the accused are also two Bulgarians and one Romanian.
The victims whose money was stolen by cyber-criminals and laundered by QAAAZZ include a technology company in Windsor, Connecticut, a Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, a medical device manufacturer in York, Pennsylvania, and several individuals from various US states.