One of Spain´s most infamous con artists, known as the “Queen of Con” has been arrested in an operation to dismantle a sophisticated property buying pyramid scheme.
The 50 year old woman, who posed as the illegitimate daughter of the late dictator, General Franco, or the late king, Juan Carlos, was arrested along with 10 suspects in an international operation that involved hundreds of victims.
The operation, known as Opportunity 2020 has dismantled the entire criminal organization, freezing 10 bank accounts and confiscating 60,000 Euros in cash, numerous pieces of high-end jewelery valued at 50,000 euros, two top of the range vehicles, as well as a large number of technological devices.
The gang´s pyramid scam was run from the small town of Guardamar del Segura (Alicante) and operated across the country, including, Madrid, Barcelona, Tarragona and Alicante as well as the Czech Republic and Sweden.
Authorities have so far identified around 100 victims who have been defrauded of more than 4 million Euros. It is believed that there are many more victims who have not come forward.
The scam involved sourcing all types of real estate for sale with spotters on commission who found listings in estate agencies. The spotters would use personal connections to offer these to potential investors at knock down bargain prices of approximately 20% of the market value.
The victims, would then “reserve” the purchase property and the estate agents informed of the pending sale and to take the listing off the market – in this way the gang would buy sufficient time for the “purchase” to be paid (typically amounts of between 25,000 and 40,000 Euros).
The highly organised gang even ran their own front law firm who oversaw the “purchases.” Once the victims had made their payments the “owners” of the properties disappeared and the “sales” never completed.
It is believed that the scheme has been in operation for around 18 months before the authorities were able to execute the raids.
The victims even included their own “investment spotters” some of whom were able to make “commisions of up to 4,000 euros per month, and in some cases, took out loans to buy the bargain homes.
The “queen” of the gang has a long history of graft and has served numerous prison sentences over the last 20 years.
The woman who is physically handicapped and requires use a wheelchair, earned the trust and compassion of her victims, who apparently believed her story of being the heir to a great fortune by due of her “distinguished family”.
She led an affluent lifestyle with numerous homes, one of which was also the gangs headquarters and guarded by sophisticated security and surveillance systems, as well as guard dogs.