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Spain cuffs Wi-Fi leeching lottery scammers

El Gordo ladrones

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Spanish police have arrested ten Nigerians suspected of running a spam-fuelled lottery scam that raked in €19,000 ($28,000) in illicit earnings over three months.

Investigators say the gang, based in Malaga in southern Spain, piggybacked the wireless internet access of a neighbour to pump out false claims that recipients had hit it lucky with lottery wins. To get their "winnings", recipients were told that must first pay "processing fees" up-front. Victims, at least some of whom live outside Spain, were asked to cough up €1,250 or more, according to local reports (in Spanish).

Seven arrests were made in Malaga, and three in Huelva province, southwestern Spain. Police recovered €15,500 in cash, bank documents and forged letterheads, in an operation codenamed "Irán". The name was inspired by an Iranian who sparked the investigation last year, by complaining that he had been defrauded.

The gang claimed to represent "El Gordo Español loteria". Lotteries are a national institution in Spain, with the Spanish Christmas Lottery (El Gordo de Navidad) among the richest lotteries of the world, in terms of total payout. It seems unlikely that locals would be taken in by a ruse based on a fictional firm.

In recent years, Malaga has become a focus of criminal investigation into lottery scams. Three years ago 310 people were arrested in Malaga, following an joint investigation by the FBI and Spanish police into the biggest ever bust of a lottery scam gang. ®

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