The Metropolitan Police has announced that three men have been arrested this week as part of a long-running PCeU (Police Central eCrime Unit) inquiry.
On 9 and 10 January 2013, officers from PCeU and SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) – supported by the UK Border Agency and Greater Manchester Police – executed a series of search warrants in the Manchester area in connection with a large and sophisticated Internet based fraud. In addition to documentation, investigators seized several pieces of computer equipment, which are being examined for digital evidence by forensic examiners.
The men, aged 28, 30 and 33, were arrested in connection with the operation – two on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, and one on suspicion of handling stolen goods.
They were taken to a police station in the Manchester area and bailed to return pending further enquiries. The investigation team has also arranged for the restraining of several bank accounts believed to have been used to launder stolen money. A fourth man was detained by the UK Border Agency for illegal entry. A woman was also detained as an over-stayer.
A criminal network is alleged to have targeted students through Government loan schemes by sending out emails inviting unsuspecting individuals to update details on their student loan account via a link to a convincing but bogus website. Submitting the details requested enabled the suspects to gain unauthorised access to bank accounts and extract large amounts of money ranging from £1000 to £5000 at a time.
As part of their inquiries, detectives have worked closely with the Students Loan Company, the banking industry and Internet service providers.
In total there have been several further arrests during the inquiry, with four men having been charged (two have been sentenced and two await trial), and three women and a man released with no further action.