Cyber scam network dismantled in Dominican Republic

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have arrested 24 suspects during a massive operation to dismantle a transnational cyber fraud network whose members called elderly people in the United States and coerced them into sending money.

Operacion2 Domenican-RepublicMotor vehicles, cash, clothes and firearms were seized during the raids. (Photo: Policía Nacional de República Dominicana, License)Senior citizens are more vulnerable to scams, extortion and identity theft due to a combination of factors such as their generation's tendency to be more trusting, limited exposure to modern forms of communication and scams, potential cognitive decline that can impact critical thinking, and a desire for social interaction that can make them more receptive to engaging with scammers.

For example, late last year in Australia, several seniors were arrested after being coerced into dealing drugs to recover the money previously lost to cyber extortion.

The Dominican Republic network used "call centers” to frighten elderly citizens with fabricated stories about their grandsons or granddaughters needing bail to be released from jail after being involved in a car accident.

Operation Discovery 2.0 was supported by the New York Police and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It was carried out after a 13-month investigation into the modus operandi of the network, the profile of the people involved, the method of victim recruitment and the economic damage it generated.

Police carried out 15 simultaneous raids in the provinces of Santiago and Puerto Plata, hitting three alleged call centers. Officers seized computers related to the extortion activities, cell phones, firearms, bullets, vehicles, cash and other electronic devices such as tablets and CPUs.

The Public Prosecutor's Office requested the preventive detention of the captured individuals for a period of 18 months.

The first version of Operation Discovery was carried out in March 2022. As of June this year, 46 formal defendants and five companies have been indicted for defrauding U.S. citizens through sexual and economic extortion and identity theft.