Norwich gang members jailed for £1m cyber-fraud scam
PUBLISHED: 10:53 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:59 07 June 2019
Members of a Norwich-based gang which netted more than £1m in stolen funds have been jailed - despite fleeing the country after their arrest.
The gang used various methods to steal money from their victims, including the installation of malicious software on people's computers to access their bank accounts.
Stolen funds were then laundered through various 'mule' accounts and withdrawn as cash.
Ringleader Edgaras Petkevicius, 33, of Primrose Crescent, Norwich, was jailed for his part in the conspiracy earlier this year.
He was initially jailed for 11 years in his absence, having fled to Lithuania.
However, after being arrested under a European arrest warrant (EAW) and extradited back to England in December, he was served with an additional nine months custodial sentence for his failure to appear.
The investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) also saw the arrest of Dainius Ziupka, 26, of Foxall Road, Ipswich.
Ziupka fled back to his home country of Lithuania after his arrest, but was successfully extradited in November 2018.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was jailed at Luton Crown Court on Thursday, June 6, for three years and nine months.
Methods used by the gang to steal funds included the remote installation of malware to someone's computer, allowing them to access a victim's bank account.
They would also contact a bank by phone and pretend to be the account holder in order to access funds.
After the money was stolen, it was then transferred online into various 'mule' bank accounts before eventually being put into an account where it could be withdrawn as cash.
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A mule bank account is one no longer used by the named account holder and is instead taken over by the launderers.
On one occasion, the gang took control of an account owned by a woman who had recently died. An account owned by a serving prisoner was also used for laundering.
Police said the group is believed to have benefited by more than £1m.
Laura Milasiute, 28, of Primrose Crescent, Norwich, received a nine-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, and 150 hours of community service for her part in the criminality, after being convicted of money laundering.
Detective chief inspector Martin Peters said: "This was an incredibly complex investigation, not least because the two main offenders fled to Lithuania following their arrest.
"However, thanks to the tireless work of our investigators, as well as the fantastic partnership working with our counterparts abroad, Ziupka and Milasiute have now also been brought to justice.
"We take all types of economic crime incredibly seriously, as do the courts, and the lengthy custodial sentences handed out to the ring leaders goes to show that this type of crime really doesn't pay.
"This also sends a warning to all others who think they can evade justice. We are committed to continuing to work with law enforcement agencies abroad to ensure that criminals are made to pay the price for their actions."
The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit
The ERSOU tackles serious organised crime and the terrorism threat across the eastern region.
It is made up of a regional organised crime unit (ROCU) and a counter terrorism policing unit (CTP).
The ROCU carries out investigations into serious and organised crime on behalf of police forces in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.
The counter terrorism policing unit (CTP) carries out intelligence led work to tackle the terrorism threat across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk.
The lead force for ERSOU is Bedfordshire Police, with the Assistant Chief Constable of ERSOU reporting into chief constable Jon Boutcher.