Mafia ‘godfather’ caught in UK supermarket scam
Gang targeted a farm produce wholesaler in the Vega Baja
By Alex Watkins MEMBERS of a gang led by an Italian mafia boss have been arrested for allegedly conning €2.5 million out of fruit and vegetable wholesalers by pretending to represent a well-known UK supermarket chain, reported the Guardia Civil.
A force spokesman explained that the manager of one of these companies, based in Cox in the Vega Baja, reported in December that he had been swindled out of 1.6 million kilos of farm produce worth almost €2 million.
The Guardia Civil examined the CMR (International Carriage of Goods by Road) waybill for any irregularities, which showed the goods had not actually been transported to the UK but other places around Europe, including Verona (Italy), Perpignan (France) and Afumati (Romania), where they had been sold on the black market at very low prices.
After liaising with Interpol and Romanian police, officers confirmed who was behind the transport company. Officers searched the home
the person who had of claimed to represent the UK supermarket and discovered a large number of telephone numbers, IMEI’s (mobile device identity codes) and documents.
The gang had been contacting companies under this pretext offering to put them in contact with the UK supermarket’s head of purchasing in Spain.
Once they had made contact with this impostor, although it was never in person, the gang started to place orders. In order to seem more convincing they used corporate logos, website templates and email addresses from genuine companies.
The gang then sent lorries with false number plates and fake livery from real transport companies to pick up the goods.
The produce was then transferred onto legitimate transport company vehicles in Real (Valencia) or Mercabarna (Barcelona) to be taken to its real destinations.
When the companies were not being paid after the goods were shipped, they contacted the supposed supermarket representative, who at first made excuses but then stopped answering their calls.
The gang’s bosses made sure they were not named in any of the companies or transactions and even paid their underlings through unconnected third parties, noted the Guardia Civil.
All the gang’s phone numbers were registered under false identities at a call centre run by an Egyptian man who was in charge of finding workers to transfer the goods and renting the vehicles.
Two companies, based in Betxi (Castellón) and La Rinconada (Sevilla), were defrauded out of more than €2.5 million.
According to the Guardia spokesman, the ringleader was an Italian man who commanded great respect from the gang, who always called him ‘El Capo’, as he belonged to the Italian mafia in Puglia.
The ‘godfather’, identified by the initials S.D, had even attacked his own family with an explosive device in 2014.
A total of six suspects were arrested, including El Capo’s right-hand man, and another person is still under investigation.
The operation was carried out by the Torrevieja Guardia civil rural crime squad (ROCA) with support from investigating courts in Orihuela and Valencia.
'El Capo' was arrested by Guardia Civil officers