Four men and three women have been arrested as part of an ongoing joint-agency investigation into alleged identity crime offences, which has uncovered the alleged corruption of a Commonwealth government employee, Australian Federal Police say.
The Identity Security Strike Team (ISST), a multi-jurisdictional initiative between the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), investigates high level, complex identity fraud and related security matters under both Commonwealth and State legislation.
In June 2017, the ISST commenced Operation Loa to investigate targeted mail theft, mobile telephone porting, and identity takeovers enabling large-scale fraud across Sydney.
As a result of their inquiries, investigators uncovered an organised network allegedly stealing mail, specifically targeting financial information and cards; impersonating account holders during telephone calls to gather further identity information, then purchasing goods or making cash withdrawals using the fraudulent credit cards.
Further investigations revealed the group engaged an employee of a Commonwealth government agency, who was allegedly providing identity information accessed without authorisation, in return for cash.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has been assisting investigators with ongoing inquiries.
Following extensive investigations, ISST officers executed seven search warrants at Bankstown, Blacktown, Greenacre, Guildford, North Rocks, and Rosehill, from 6am today (Wednesday 29 November 2017).
Investigators seized various forms of identification and documentation.
Seven people were arrested during the police operation and taken to local police stations.
They are expected to be charged with identity information and fraud offences.
The female DHS employee will be charged with bribery offences.
Investigations under Operation Loa are continuing.
Australian Federal Police Coordinator of Organised Crime and Cyber, Detective Superintendent Brett James, said the operation uncovered allegations of corruption within a Commonwealth Government agency.
“Any allegation of an individual using and abusing their position of trust is a cause of great concern for the AFP and their respective agency,” Detective Superintendent James said.
“We believe the behaviour uncovered through this investigation was opportunistic and on an individual scale.
“What it tells us though is that criminal networks will seek to exploit any vulnerability they can. When considering the scale and prevalence of identity crime in Australia – with one in five Australians having been a victim at some point in their lives- it’s not surprising these networks will try any means they can to prey on everyday people,” Detective Superintendent James said.
NSWPF State Crime Command’s Fraud and Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, praised the work of the ISST in successfully dismantling the group.
“Over the past six months, the ISST tenaciously tracked the group’s activities, analysed their methodology to understand the illicit business model, which ensured they completely dismantled the syndicate,” Det Supt Katsogiannis said.
“Identity crime is one of the most prevalent crimes in the country, and is important we share what we learn from these investigations to assist members of the community to better protect their personal information.
“Your identity is one of the most valuable things you have, and we urge everyone to review their online presence and ensure they are not sharing too much,” Det Supt Katsogiannis said.
The ISST urge anyone with information about identity fraud to call Crime Stoppers.