A man and a woman have been handed a total of 14 years in jail for a phishing scam the proceeds of which were used to buy air tickets for Romanian criminals wanting to travel to the UK.
Constanta Agrigoroaie, 23, and Radu Savoae, 28, both originally believed to be from Romania, were accused of cooking up a scam targeting around 150 Apple users with emails claiming that they needed to update their accounts and credit card details after a suspected compromise.
It's not clear how many fell for the phishing attack but enough did for the pair to steal £15,000 from victims, money then used to purchase air tickets so that other Romanian criminals could enter the country to carry out pick-pocket and metal theft in and around London.
Police eventually traced the perpetrators after arresting six men at Luton airport on 26 February, all apparently travelling alone even though their tickets had been purchased from the same computer. In an apt twist, police arrived at Agrigoroaie's address in Ilford on 4 April while she was looking at East European airline websites.
Police also recovered equipment used to clone credit cards, including large numbers of blank credit cards and a magnetic card reader plus fake Spanish and Romanian ID cards and a large sum of money.
Helpfully, one of the defendants had detailed the frauds carried out in a spreadsheet.
"As a result of a tireless investigation by the Roads and Transport Policing Command (RTPC)they have been jailed which has no doubt prevented numerous bank customers from becoming victims of this crime," said Chief Superintendent Matt Bell of the RTPC.
"It is so important that internet users are aware of the risks posed by cyber criminals. Today's sentence is testament to how serious this type of crime is and should stand as a deterrent to anyone who might consider undertaking 'phishing' scams."
Savoae was sentenced to eight years imprisonment while Agrigoroaie got six years, at the higher end for such crimes although the evidence of organised criminality was taken into account.
Romanians have featured in a number of UK and US prosecutions for phishing crime in recent years which suggests that this particular fraud has become a speciality in the country. But it would be a mistake to see any one nationality as responsible for phishing; phishing fraud is a global crime.