Former chef and key member of ‘Hackerville’ crime group held on suspicion of setting up 16 bank accounts with fake IDs to launder €130,000
18th November 2021
A former chef who was arrested today as part of a major international investigation into accommodation scams is suspected of being a key member of the ‘Hackerville’ crime organisation.
The Romanian national aged in his 30s, who was arrested in west Dublin, has been living in Ireland for around 12 years.
Officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) have established that the arrested man is originally from the Romanian city of Râmnicu Vâlcea which has been nicknamed ‘Hackerville’.
The central Romanian city earned its dubious title because now over 100 of its inhabitants have been arrested as part of a major EU crackdown on the fraud mob.
The gang at the centre of the lengthy probe are suspected of carrying out thousands of organised frauds in other EU countries and then using Irish financial institutions to launder the cash.
However, in the case of the suspect who is being quizzed by specialist fraud squad officers tonight at Blanchardstown station, he is suspected of setting up 16 separate accounts online from his base in Dublin to launder around €130,000 for the gang.
These include a number of Revolut accounts as well as bank accounts in Belgian and German financial institutions.
The GNECB, who have worked closely with Dutch police as part of the investigation, have established 61 victims from all across continental Europe who were duped after attempting to book accommodation with well-known websites such as Booking.com and other accommodation providers.
“This investigation is part of Operation Omena, an operation targeting money laundering and transnational crime,” a garda spokesman said.
“Working in co-operation with European police forces, 61 victims have been identified worldwide who had tried to book accommodation online but were redirected to cloned websites where their money was then transferred into false accounts,” he added.
A senior source explained that the suspect was first arrested by the GNECB in May of last year when he attempted to use a fake ID to set up an account with An Post.
When detectives became aware of this, they raided his home and seized five suspected fake IDs which were mainly Danish identity cards.
Detailed garda investigations with the Dutch police and other European police forces over the past year led to his re-arrest today when it emerged that the suspect had used these fake identity cards to set up the 16 accounts with three financial institutions.
Detectives suspect the man who was arrested today has close links to one of the senior members of the ‘Hackerville’ organisation, who previously served a significant sentence in the UK for similar offences.
As part of Operation Omena, the GNECB are providing valuable assistance to not just Dutch police but also police forces in Luxembourg, Austria and Spain in an attempt to dismantle the transnational gang.
Four suspected gang members were recently arrested in Luxembourg and a number of ‘Hackerville’ members were recently extradited to the Netherlands from Romania.
The garda spokesman said in a statement that today’s arrest is “part of an ongoing investigation into money laundering and transnational crime”.
“The man, was arrested for an offence pursuant to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 and is currently detained in Blanchardstown garda station under the provisions of Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007. He can be questioned for up to seven days,” he added.
The ‘Hackerville’ gang are also suspected of being involved in rental scams here in Ireland, many of which target students.
There were a total of 503 cases of rental scams reported between February 1, 2019, and May 31 this year, gardaí announced in August.
Almost half of these incidents occurred in the Dublin region with just over €900,000 stolen in rental scams over this period.
Some 42pc of all injured parties were under the age of 25, while 72pc were under the age of 35.