More than 100 Australians were allegedly tricked into parting with $2.7 million as part of a cold call cryptocurrency investment scam operated from the Gold Coast.
Queensland Police said on Thursday five members of a suspected criminal syndicate had been charged with fraud and money laundering following a “complex and protracted” investigation.
Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group swooped on the syndicate comprised of three men and two women as part of Operation Quebec Walnut in May and August this year.
Between 2017 and May 2019, the syndicate is said to have operated several business selling cryptocurrency investments in Exmount Holdings Group – a company that appeared legitimate.
A number of other companies and website were also connected to the scam, including “Exmount Holdings Ltd”, “The Quid Pro Quo Foundation”, “The Atlas Group”, “AFG Associates Pty Ltd”, “tradex123”, “exmounttrading”, “atlasfxgroup” and “amazonqus”.”
Police will allege the syndicate duped “100 Australian based victims” ... into thinking their investment of more than $2.7 million had produced a significant profit which never existed”.
It did this by cold calling victims and offering a trial investment that promised “generous returns once they had invested more funds”.
Victims were even provided with “unique log-in details for the website where they could watch their initial investment grow over the trial period”.
However, on attempts to withdraw their capital from the investment, the victims found their money had disappeared.
“When victims attempted to withdraw their capital, they could not,” Financial and Cyber Crime Group detective superintendent Terry Laurence said.
“Their money had gone and any attempt they made to contact one of the companies or their staff was unsuccessful.”
Laurence said that although the arrests were a “significant” step forward, Queensland Police was continuing to conduct enquiries.
“We would like to speak with anyone who feels they may have fallen victim to this criminal activity or may have information that could assist our enquiries,” he said.
“We ask the community to remain resilient against this type of offending. Always be wary of and maintain control of your finances.”
The three men and two women, which are also alleged to have participated in a criminal organisation, will appear before the Southport Magistrates Court in separate appearances on 9 August, 22 August and 5 November.