FIOD and US DoJ conduct simultaneous operations against worldwide multi-million euro fraud with false letters

  • FIOD searches ten locations; investigation into six Dutch companies and their directors who presumably facilitated the international fraud
  • The FIOD will seize the mail from 300 mailboxes in the Netherlands
  • DoJ files civil complaint against suspected Dutch citizen and his suspected companies

Yesterday, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Division (FIOD) searched a total of ten locations in a criminal investigation into six companies who, in the Netherlands, operate mailboxes which are suspected of being used for global fraud. The six companies are suspected of ( being involved in) fraud and attempted fraud of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide by way of false letters. It is assumed that the total fraud amount runs up to the millions. Simultaneously with the operations conducted by the FIOD, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a civil complaint against two of the suspected companies and one director in the Netherlands, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of victims.

The main suspects of the fraud are presumably not living in the Netherlands, but the Dutch companies and their directors allegedly played a facilitating role in the fraud. The suspicion is that the main suspects sent millions of letters to people in the United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, France, Japan and many more countries. In the letters, addressed to people personally, the recipients were made to believe that they had won an award in the amount of money or a check, which they had not claimed yet. Another example was that the sender of the letter intended to give money to the recipient as an act of charity. In addition, letters were sent which stated that the recipient was a guaranteed winner in a lottery. To be able to transfer the money to the recipient, the latter had to send a cash amount of between 20 and 45 euro or a cheque, each time to a mailbox in the Netherlands.

In various letters, approximately 300 different mailbox numbers in the Netherlands were mentioned. Allegedly, the six suspected Dutch companies, which are the subject of the FIOD-investigation manage a large part of the mailboxes, empty them and process the mail. Presumably, the companies were allowed to keep part of the money as payment for services rendered, but the larger part of the money was transferred to bank accounts, which allegedly belonged to the main suspects of the fraud.

The FIOD investigation was initiated at the end of 2015, following the interception and seizure of a large quantity of letters by Customs at Schiphol airport.

Fraud undermines trust

It is important that people look critically before they agree to something and send money. Every individual has his or her own responsibility. Scammers sometimes operate in such a professional manner, that it can be difficult to detect fraud. Scammers often approach vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or people who have already become the victim of similar fraud in the past. People should be able to rely on any information provided to them by companies. Fraud undermines trust and that is a serious matter. That is why the government is taking measures against these practices.

Until the present, no cases have been reported involving Dutch citizens who have become the victim of this fraud. This operation conducted by the FIOD under supervision of the National Prosecutor’s Office for Serious Fraud, Environmental Crime and Asset Confiscation (Functioneel Parket) is aimed at preventing the use of Dutch mailboxes being utilized for this type of worldwide fraud.

Seizure of letters

The FIOD conducted searches at six businesses in Amsterdam, Heerlen, Utrecht, Wijk bij Duurstede and Hoorn (2 companies). Furthermore, searches were carried out in a safe in Wijk bij Duurstede and three houses, one of them in Wijk bij Duurstede and the other two in Drechterland and Heerlen. Apart from their administration, thousands of envelopes containing cash money and cheques were seized. In Utrecht pallets with hundreds of thousands (fraudulent) letters were confiscated. Moreover, circa half a million euro cash, watches, art, cars (among them a Porsche) and bank accounts were confiscated or frozen, because crime should not pay.

In June, the FIOD will seize all incoming mail from approximately 300 mailboxes. The DoJ has also requested the court in the United States to take measures to ensure that all correspondence to the relevant Dutch mailboxes can be intercepted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.