Interpol moves against human traffickers who enslave people to scam you online

Scum lure folks with promises of good jobs in crypto and then won't let them leave

Hundreds of suspected people smugglers have been arrested, and 163 potential victims rescued from servitude, as part of an Interpol-coordinated operation dubbed "Turquesa V" that targeted cyber criminals who lure workers into servitude to carry out their scams.

The international law enforcement agency on Monday unveiled details of the operation, which found hot spots for this type of crime in South America and the Middle East. Forced labor in the service of cyber crime has typically been more confined to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, since Interpol first started tracking it in 2021.

More than 100 people were rescued from one set of traffickers – Brazilians who believed they were accepting cryptocurrency jobs with good wages, bonuses, food and housing. When the victims showed up for their first day on the job, they were forced into working for cyber investment scam operations and not allowed to leave.

Federal police also froze $286,000 in criminal proceeds belonging to a criminal crew running cyber scam centers in Cambodia.

Additionally, officers from Interpol's Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit were deployed to the land border in Tabatinga, Brazil, and to the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama. These cops used Interpol-issued mobile devices for real-time checks against the organizations' newly live global databases of facial and fingerprint scans.

In all, Operation Turquesa V saw police in 33 countries conduct over 850,000 checks at major transit points in the US and Canada frequented by people smugglers between November 27 and December 1.

The five-day operation led to 257 arrests and about 12,000 stops of what Interpol described as "irregular migrants" from 69 countries. Interpol revealed that this year's effort shows an increase in migration patterns from China, which is now the third most prevalent country of origin for these irregular migrants – with Venezuela and Ecuador in first and second places, respectively.

In one case cited, a passport check conducted on the Caribbean island nation Curaçao flagged a passenger arriving from the Dominican Republic as a potential migrant smuggler. The man claimed to be part of a traveling softball team, despite not carrying any uniforms or equipment in his bags. Neither did his "teammates." The crew was deported to the Dominican Republic and arrested upon arrival.

Police say they rescued "dozens" of underage victims – many of whom were being trafficked for sexual exploitation. This included a dozen children, including one six-year-old, who were rescued in Honduras.

"The number of nationalities detected during Operation Turquesa V demonstrates how this major migration corridor, once considered a route reserved to the Americas, has become the target of organized crime groups from around the world," Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock declared in a statement.

Turquesa V followed a different Interpol-led operation, Storm Makers II, which also led to hundreds of arrests and the rescue of more than 140 individuals who were being trafficked to work in call centers as part of cyber fraud operations. ®

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