updated 09:40 am EDT, Thu August 19, 2010
Thought to be worth millions of pounds
In a series of Wednesday raids, detectives in London, England are reported to have arrested nine people, all accused of participating in a fraud conspiracy involving nearly a thousand stolen iPhones. Seized during the raids, aside from phones, were various SIM cards, computers, amounts of cash and assorted documents, including stolen bank cards and fake passports. The SIM cards were being shipped overseas and plugged into automatic dialing machines, which called phone lines charging as much as £10 per minute.
The scam generated extremely large bills in a matter of weeks, which were settled by UK carrier O2, but never repaid due to the absent SIM owners. O2 brought the case to police attention after £1.2 million was reported stolen in the month of July. Investigators are said to be curious as to where all of the money went, as many of the people accused of fraud lived in council houses with little more than better-than-average cars to their names.
The organization of the scheme was relatively complex; a West African gang is believed to have bought the iPhones using bad credit cards and fake IDs, then sold them to a middleman, who delivered them to 29 corrupt delivery drivers. The iPhones were sent to other criminals overseas for resale; the SIMs were sold separately to a Pakistani gang, which ran the actual autodialer scam. The middleman's girlfriend is suspected of recruiting the delivery drivers, and buying more phones online and by telephone. Shell companies were used to launder the autodialer money and hide identities.