Five men have admitted being part of a network responsible for laundering at least £16 million pounds stolen by international cyber criminals, following an investigation by the National Crime Agency. Four pleaded guilty in June, while the fifth pleaded guilty yesterday.
Iurie Mereacre, a 37-year-old Moldovan national, ran the money laundering service from his home in Woodford Green, London, along with his associates, brothers Iurie Bivol (36) and Serghei Bivol (31), and 28-year-old Ryingota Gincota.
Over a three-year period, the group set up and controlled around 400 bank accounts in a conspiracy which involved receiving stolen funds into one account, then dispersing it in smaller amounts to a number of other accounts. This process would be repeated several times to disguise the source of the money before it was transferred back to cyber criminals in Eastern Europe.
53-year-old Nilesh Sheth, a personal banking manager at Barclays, was instrumental in the opening of a large number of these accounts, known as “mule” accounts, using false ID and address documents.
Prior to their arrests on November 3, 2016, the group was under surveillance by the NCA and was seen meeting with Sheth on numerous occasions at the bank, and in public places including restaurants and car parks.
On the day of the arrests, NCA officers recovered multiple mobile phones, financial ledgers, and 70 “mule” packs from Mereacre’s flat. The “mule” packs contained ID and banking documents, bank cards and security information that enabled the group to access the accounts.
Officers also seized a hand-written step-by-step guide to money laundering, which contained instructions on how to move money to accounts at various banks and notes on which accounts had been blocked by bank security.
In a search of Sheth’s house in Redwoods Close, Buckhurst Hill, officers recovered over £16,000 in cash and nine mobile phones hidden in various places around the house, including under the kitchen sink and tucked behind the sofa cushions. A number of the phones had been used to communicate with Mereacre and contained text messages sent between the pair, organising meetings and payment.
Mereacre, Sheth and both Bivol brothers pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy on June 15, 2017 at the Old Bailey. Gincota opted to go to trial but later pleaded guilty to fraud offences on September 19, 2017.
“Criminals rely heavily on money launderers like Mereacre and his associates in order to access their profits,” Mike Hulett, head of Operations at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said. “Sheth abused his position of trust at the bank to knowingly open sham accounts for the network, providing a vital service which enabled them to launder £16 million worth of stolen cash.”
Get the latest on organized crime and the Mafia at Gangsters Inc.'s news section.
Copyright © Gangsters Inc.