Officers from the National Police have broken up a criminal gang, thought to be responsible for conning around 2,000 people out of money, as part of a network of people operating as gas inspectors.
A group of 12 people have been arrested across the country, believed to have set up some 60 companies that would cheat the victims, mostly the elderly, disabled or foreigners, using threatening tactics to ensure that their victims paid the extortionate prices charged.
During the two year investigation, the officers found that those involved in the scam enjoyed a high standard of living, and owned numerous luxury properties in Spain, whilst also accruing a debt to the social security of around 4,000,000 euro.
The operators of the companies hired workers, sometimes with criminal records, and arranged for those workers to visit the homes of their victims, generally tricking the owners into believing that they were there to conduct mandatory checks on appliances.
It was not uncommon for the scammers to phone ahead to warn the homeowners of the pending visit by the bogus inspectors, and once inside the homes the workers simulated and performed maintenance checks and reported unnecessary work requirements, resulting in payments ranging from 50 to 390 euro, whilst also managing to steal valuables from the homes.
The inspectors were not authorised to conduct the checks by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, and thus presented a further risk to the homeowners who believed that they had carried out necessary work.
The twelve people were arrested in Fuenlabrada, Navalcarnero, Fresno del Torote, Barcelona, Yeles, Málaga, Fuengirola, Granada and Elche, after 15 homes were raided by the police, where 14 computers, 12 hard drives, 14 mobile phones, six pen drives, a tablet computer, 10 vehicles and a thousand euro in cash were all seized.
According to police, the estimated total value of the scam is impossible to quantify, as a large number of victims would not have come forward to report the fact that they were involved, partly due to the seemingly genuine nature of the fraudsters, and partly due to the embarrassment of being conned in such a way.
The Police advice for consumers is that there is a requirement for gas installations to be checked, but this would always be done by the company with whom you are contracted, or fitted the installation originally. All installers and inspectors carry authorised identity documents issued by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, but if there is any doubt as to whether or not a gas worker is genuine, check with the company with whom you are contracted, by telephoning the number you have on your document, never the number provided by the installer, and if doubt still remains, contact the police.
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