Authorities in the United States recently stopped the activities of more than 600 domestic money mules, the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.
Money mules are individuals who assist fraud schemes by receiving money from victims and transferring proceeds to perpetrators. Many of the victims are elderly, while the cybercriminals behind the fraud schemes are usually located in other countries.
As part of the newly revealed initiative, which took place over a period of two months, money mule networks were disrupted all around the country. Overall, action was taken to stop the activity of over 600 money mules spanning more than 85 federal districts.
The DoJ also revealed that over 30 individuals were indicted for their roles in receiving money from victims and forwarding proceedings to cybercriminals, a number that is three times higher than last year.
Fraud scheme types targeted this year included “grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, veteran and social security benefit redirection scams, and technical-support scams.”
More than 550 individuals were interviewed and over 500 warning letters were sent to individuals who recently served as money mules. The recipients were told they could be prosecuted if they continued aiding and abetting fraud schemes.
Authorities also executed search warrants to secure evidence from those who knowingly aided and abetted fraud schemes, including transnational elder fraud schemes.
In November, the DoJ’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force indicted a Georgia man for a $6.5 million online romance scam and business email compromise fraud, four other Georgia residents for fraud schemes targeting retirees and federal benefit programs, and six other individuals involved in a prize-notification scheme.
“The Money Mule initiative highlights the importance of partnership to stop fraud schemes, and it sends a message to all who are engaged in money mule activity that they will be caught and prosecuted,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
A similar initiative against money mules was announced this week in Europe, where authorities said they had identified over 3,800 money mules and 386 recruiters, of which 228 were arrested.
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