Mossos d’Esquadra of the Criminal Investigation Division (DIC) of the Metropolitan Police Region of Barcelona together with the Investigation Unit of the Nou Barris police station have dismantled a criminal group specialized in carrying out thefts from elderly people, when they were withdrawing money of bank ATMs. It is the first investigation that the Mossos d’Esquadra carries out under the direction of the newly created Prosecutor’s Office for the Protection of Vulnerable Victims.

The balance of the operation, which was carried out on April 25, is that four people were arrested out of the five investigated, two men and two women, between 19 and 63 years old, as alleged perpetrators of crimes of theft, bank fraud and membership in criminal organizations.

These police actions are the result of pre-procedural investigation proceedings by the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office, assigned to the new Deputy Prosecutor of the specialized Victim Protection section of the criminal process of the Barcelona Provincial Prosecutor’s Office and directed by the Prosecutor’s Office.

The criminal group, made up of five members, used false identities and so far their involvement in a dozen criminal acts has been proven, although more have not been ruled out. It was also proven that they did not have roots in the country and that they were very able to move and act in different places in the territory in a short space of time. In just three months they committed twelve criminal acts in Argentona, Badalona, ​​Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, ​​Mataró, Gerona and Reus.

The investigation began at the beginning of January when an increase in this type of crime was detected, where the way the perpetrators acted was always the same. Thanks to the investigation efforts and the evidence collected, the agents verified that all these criminal acts could be related and that the perpetrators could be the same in all cases.

The investigations and images recorded by the banking entities’ security cameras allowed the criminal acts to be attributed to a group of five people, three men and two women. Their modus operandi was always the same, the method known as “sowing”: the perpetrators, who always acted in a group, took advantage of the fact that the elderly person was withdrawing money from an ATM to observe the secret number he entered. They immediately threw a bill on the ground telling him that this was his. When the victim tried to pick it up from the floor, one of those investigated stole the ATM’s card or bank book and moved to one next door or nearby to withdraw money and/or make fraudulent purchases in commercial establishments. Other members of the group distracted potential people who could witness the events.

The investigators were able to prove that the five investigated formed a criminal group, very active and stable over time, which, in a coordinated manner, carried out various specific functions in order to commit thefts and scams.

Finally, and upon observing that this criminal group had a very easy time moving through the territory and that they could leave Barcelona at any time, the Prosecutor’s Office for the Protection of Vulnerable Victims requested the Incident Guard Court for authorization to carry out entries and searches in the homes of those investigated. In the raids, which took place on April 25, the four people involved in the crimes were located and detained, and about 4,000 euros, clothing and characteristic accessories that they were wearing at the time of committing the crimes were seized because they were not detected. .

The investigation remains open and new arrests are not ruled out. The four detainees were brought to justice on April 28 before the Investigative Court on duty in Barcelona.

This technique needs authors with internalized and specific knowledge, with a lot of skill, a specific type of space in which to carry it out, a particular victim profile and more than two authors with assigned roles to carry it out. Specifically, the perpetrators selected the victim, from outside the establishment or inside, waiting for him to carry out an operation at one of the bank’s ATMs with his card or passbook. Once they had the ideal situation, they acted.

During the commission of the act, other members of the group distracted other clients and/or workers of the bank to avoid being detected and thus ensure the loot and success of the criminal act. In most cases, the refunds occurred at ATMs located next to the one where the victim was, which demonstrates the high impunity and criminal experience with which those investigated acted.

At the time of acting, each member of the group had a specific role. One was the observer of the security code of the victim’s notebook or card. Another was responsible for distracting the victim by throwing a bill on the ground and then asking him if it was his, while the observer stole his passbook or ATM card. He himself went to another nearby ATM or the one next door, and withdrew cash with the stolen book or card and/or made purchases in commercial establishments fraudulently. Other members were dedicated to monitoring the environment so as not to be detected and even distracted the people around them.

They acted so quickly that they were able to make different withdrawals of cash from the stolen book or card in the time it took for the victim to realize the facts. On one occasion, they made six withdrawals reaching a total of 4,173 euros and on another one withdrawal of 1,000 euros and different purchases for an approximate value of 3,586 euros.