The Public Ministry of Minas Gerais (MPMG) and the Military Police of Minas Gerais carried out today (6) Operation Camaleão with the objective of dismantling a gang specialized in a coup that has become common in the country. Using victims’ photos and personal information, criminals create new accounts on the WhatsApp app to ask family and friends for money. Despite using different cell phone numbers, the tactic is effective and allows them to make victims on a daily basis.
Seven people were preventively arrested, all of whom were approached at home, in Cuiabá or in surrounding cities. The operation, which had the support of the Public Ministry of Mato Grosso (MPMT) and the Civil and Military Police of the same state, carried out 12 search and seizure warrants.
According to Mauro Ellovitch, prosecutor in charge of the MPMG’s State Coordination for Combating Cyber Crimes, the data used by the coup plotters are obtained from unofficial sources. He said they might even have been purchased from the dark web, network servers available on the internet that are accessible only through specific tools that guarantee a high level of anonymity.
“They used this data to deceive family members and commit embezzlement. The member of this organization took the data of a person and pretended to be him to deceive a mother or father. They claimed that they had to change the telephone number and asked for money, mainly for through a PIX transfer,” explained Ellovitch.
The prosecutor said that, in this type of crime, there is no hacking or cloning of the victim’s cell phone. For this reason, WhatsApp users should not rely solely on the profile picture and should always be suspicious if there is a request to transfer money from a phone number other than the known one. In the house of one of the prisoners alone, 58 cell phone chips were seized.
The intelligence investigations, which were ongoing since last year, revealed that the gang acted in a structured and constant way, with clear divisions of functions. “There was an operational core responsible for obtaining the data, enabling the chips and approaching the victims. And there was another core, responsible for making PIX accounts and keys available to be used in crimes and then withdrawing the money from these accounts in order to avoid blockages” , said Ellovitch.
Estimates indicate that R$ 10 thousand per working day was handled by the organization. Considering the time of operation, a judicial block of R$ 1.8 million was requested for the purpose of compensating the victims and repairing the damages caused.
Prisoners will be denounced according to their role in the gang. Among the crimes identified are criminal organization, embezzlement through electronic fraud, false identity and money laundering. The penalties for those involved in all of them can exceed 30 years of imprisonment.
According to MPMG and PMMG, this is a pioneering action in the country. “This can be expanded, and should be expanded even further. We believe that it is the first example to be followed throughout the country, so that we can fight this criminal modality more directly”, said Major Layla Brunnela, spokeswoman for the PMMG.
She said almost everyone knows someone who has been the target of such a scam, and advises victims to file cases and provide details that can help with successful new operations. Even the cell phone screen prints, with the content of the conversation, are materials considered important, she recommended.
The MPMG’s investigations were stimulated by the representation of approximately 40 victims residing in mining towns. The works showed, however, that the gang was based in Mato Grosso and tried to coup people from at least 15 other states. Even so, the case must be judged in the Minas Gerais Court.
“Crimes of embezzlement by means of deposit have jurisdiction fixed in the victim’s domicile, including to facilitate access to justice. that the perpetrators of the crime are from other districts”, explained Mauro Ellovitch.
New complaints involving this type of coup may also end up being forwarded to the Minas Gerais court. “In the case of related crimes, jurisdiction is fixed by prevention”, said the prosecutor.
Despite the leading role of the MPMG and the PMMG in the investigation, the prosecutor emphasizes that the execution of the operation was only possible thanks to the cooperation of the prosecutors and police in Mato Grosso. The prosecutor reiterates that it all starts with the willingness of victims to report.
“It’s hard work, but it’s a possible investigation. In people’s minds, there’s this idea that it’s impossible to investigate this type of crime and that nothing will come of it. But with a technical and dedicated investigation work, we can identify the digital traces. that this kind of coup leaves,” said Ellovitch.