The Spanish police have broken up a gang of love swindlers on Mallorca, who are said to have cheated numerous victims in Germany and other European countries out of a total of well over one million euros via the Internet.

16 people were arrested, 15 of them alone on the Mediterranean island, the Spanish police said. The suspected gang leader, a 27-year-old man from Nigeria, was among those arrested. At least 20 victims have been identified – most are single women. The media quoted a police spokesman as saying it was “one of the largest operations in the fight against cybercrime in the European Union”.

According to official information, the impostors acted in a similar way to the Israeli scammer Simon Leviev, whose story is told in the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler”. Virtual relationships with women were established on dating platforms with the help of false profiles. Then you patiently gained the victim’s trust. And at some point this was asked for money transfers under pretexts and feigned emergencies.

835,000 euros in loot from just one victim

The investigation – dubbed “Operation Marine” – began with a case in Alicante in eastern Spain. According to the police, the scammers used a handsome actor who regularly made video calls with his victim. The false US soldier repeatedly asked for financial help, including for plane tickets, tax payments and protection money – and got it. The gang took 835,000 euros from this woman alone, it said.

According to the findings of the Spanish police so far, the online love swindlers have cheated women in Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia. The money, which was swindled with the pretense of love, was transferred from straw people to accounts abroad, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, and was also invested in bitcoins.

In addition to the alleged boss from Nigeria, other people between the ages of 19 and 31 were arrested, including from Spain, Romania, Mexico and Cuba and other Latin American countries. They were charged with fraud, forgery and membership in a criminal organization, it said.