Following months of investigations, the Dominican Republic Office of the Attorney General dismantled a transnational cybercrime network believed to have defrauded hundreds of U.S. citizens of more than $200 million, through sexual and economic extortion and identity theft, the Attorney General’s Office said in a March press release.
On March 2, authorities carried out dozens of raids as part of Operation Discovery and arrested some 70 people who allegedly worked for the cybercrime ring in more than 10 call centers in Santiago, Santo Domingo, La Vega, and Puerto Plata. A joint task force of 321 police agents, 105 technicians, and 45 prosecutors took part in the operation.
The Attorney General’s Office emphasized that the operation, which is still ongoing, is being carried out with the cooperation of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), who also conducted simultaneous raids in New York City. The actions are developed under instructions of Dominican Attorney General Miriam German Brito, with the coordination of the Prosecution General Directorate, the Specialized Office of the Prosecutor against Crimes and High Technology Crimes, the Specialized Office of the Prosecutor for Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago.
The members of the network formed an association of criminals who usurped functions and engaged in money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. In addition to sexual extortion and identity theft, network members made phone calls to intimidate, sent drugs using a “delivery” system, and even impersonated FBI agents. The network relied on cryptocurrencies and the national financial system as a means to move capital in dollars and pesos and acquired millions of dollars in assets as a result of their criminal actions, the Dominican Republic Attorney General’s Office said.
Members of the criminal network targeted people who had prescriptions for highly controlled drugs. After offering these patients medicine without their doctor’s prescription, they delivered it to their homes. Then, a network member would contact the same patients posing as an FBI agent, demanding the victim make payment to an account or network address to avoid prosecution, the investigative journalism organization InSight Crime said.