A Melbourne woman pled guilty to participating in an international fraud syndicate that stole millions of dollars from superannuation accounts and stock portfolios and laundered the proceeds via the purchase of diamonds.
Jasmine Vella-Arpaci, 24, is the lone conspirator accused of the scam, which resulted in the gang receiving almost $3 million from superannuation accounts and $238,000 through stock trading.
They also sought to get $1,8 million from pension funds and $5,7 million in shares. The funds were subsequently laundered through Hong Kong, with Vella-Arpaci getting a portion of the proceeds in bitcoin.
Vella-Arpaci participated in identity theft, and phishing attempts to get the personal information of individuals and gain access to their accounts.
The stolen funds were subsequently transferred to a series of illegally obtained Westpac debit cards and shipped to a Hong Kong-based syndicate member identified as “H.”
There, a guy known as “The Swiper” acquired diamonds and other jewellery to assist in money laundering. These products were then sold before Vella-Arpaci was compensated in bitcoin for her portion of the proceeds.
One conspirator commented in a Telegram conversation, “That’s slick.” “Lol I know right,” Vella-Arpaci responded.
On Wednesday, the now 24-year-old appeared before the Victorian County Court and pleaded guilty to three charges: two counts of conspiracy to deceive and one count of conspiracy to deal with the profits of crime.
Jasmine Vella-Arpaci pled guilty at the Victorian County Court on Wednesday.CREDIT:AAP
In a statement to the court, an older woman stated that she was catapulted into attempting to protect her family business throughout 2019 after a phone call from a Gold Coast sharebroker alerted them to the attempted sale of their shares.
She stated that what followed was a system that worked against her family, leaving them feeling invisible and powerless as they attempted to recover control of their company information.
The woman stated, “It felt like every step I took led to more punishment to me and nothing stopping the large expressway the fraudsters were speeding along,”
“That year was scary and exhausting, but education into why Australia has such an incredible amount of money being lost each year to fraudsters.
In a separate statement, a couple in their 80s and 90s described the helplessness they felt upon finding they had been duped.
The theft of a woman’s $500,000 nest egg occurred only weeks before her retirement.
Vella-Arpaci was detained at Melbourne Airport on April 30, 2019, after returning from a trip to Turkey, as part of a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The year-long scam came to an end shortly after that.
A search of her residence revealed a mobile phone and a laptop on which hundreds of Telegram discussions had been saved, as well as other incriminating evidence, such as 1400 papers including passports, driver’s licence, bank cards, and Medicare cards.
An investigation revealed that Vella-Arpaci had used the dark web to trade identity papers, such as passports and driver’s licences, which were then digitally manipulated to modify the victim’s information and obtain access to valuable accounts in 2018 and 2019.
As part of the syndicate’s activity, it devised a phishing scheme to collect people’s identifying papers by producing Google ads posing as super fund log-in pages.
In certain instances, super fund balances were shifted from one fund to another before being wholly withdrawn, as the group thought some funds had less rigorous withdrawal procedures.
The 24-year-old received almost $147,000 for her participation in the fraud, which was sent into her bitcoin accounts. There were a total of 26 victims, with about $3 million stolen from superannuation accounts and $238,000 in illegally obtained and sold Commbank and Lendlease shares. More than $2.5 million of this amount was laundered through Hong Kong.
Before Vella-Arpaci was apprehended, the syndicate unsuccessfully sought to obtain an additional $1.80 million in super fund funds and $5.75 million in shares.
No other arrests have occurred.
The proceeding will resume on November 30. Vella-Arpaci remains on bail.