Police in the UK have arrested eight men and two women on suspicion of being members of a gang that used drones to smuggle large quantities of drugs and other contraband into prisons across England.
Officers from West Midlands Police charged the 10 suspects, who were arrested in a series of early morning raids conducted on Wednesday, with three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs, new psychoactive substances and other banned items, including mobile phones and SIM cards, to prisoners.
Investigators believe members of the gang may have used drones to make as many as 90 deliveries to prisons across the country, including HMP Birmingham in Winson Green; HMP Oakwood and Featherstone; Worcestershire’s HMP Hewell; HMP Risley in Warrington; HMP Wymott in Lancashire and HMP Liverpool.
Commenting on the arrests, Detective Inspector Erica Field from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit’s Prison Intelligence Unit and Prison Investigation team based in Birmingham, said: “These arrests are clearly very significant and come on the back of a detailed and very complex investigation into the smuggling of drugs and contraband to serving prisoners.
“Much of the violence behind bars is linked to drug use and supply so it’s vitally important we do all we can to cut off the supply lines – and anyone convicted of supplying banned substances into prisons can soon expect to be inmates themselves.”
The arrests come after UK Justice Secretary David Gauke last week warned that inmates in UK prisons are able to order drugs to their cells as easily as they might order a pizza on the outside thanks to prison drone deliveries.
In a speech on prison reform at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Gauke told an audience that synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice can be ordered by inmates with “Deliveroo-style responsiveness” on miniature mobile phones and delivered by drone to cell windows.
“It is clear that the reason drugs are so prevalent in our prisons is in large part because gangs are fuelling demand, boosting the supply and catching prisoners in a cycle of debt and further criminality from which they struggle to break free,” Gauke said.
Ringleader Craig Hickinbottom was sentenced to seven years and two months behind bars at Birmingham Crown Court after being found guilty of coordinating scores of drone deliveries to jails across Britain.
At the beginning of March it was reported that UK firm Skydroid has won a contract from the British government to design a proof of concept that would protect jails from smuggling attempts facilitated by drones.
Telecoms fraud costs more than €29 billion a year, Europol report reveals
A new report from Europol and online security firm Trend Micro has revealed that telecoms fraud is estimated to cost in excess of €29 billion ($32.8 billion) annually.
The jointly-authored Cyber-Telecom Crime Report 2019 found that the wider availability of low-cost hacking equipment has resulted in a sharp rise in this type of crime, and that the perpetrators of telecoms fraud are increasingly found to be based in developing countries and “failed states”.
According to the report, these trends are likely to continue with the coming deployment of next-generation 5G mobile networks, with attack vectors expected to rise in line with the growing scalability of network infrastructure.
The study highlights a major form of telecoms fraud as vishing, a method that sees scammers contact members of the public and con them into handing over money or reveal personal information that can be used for illegal activities such as identity theft.
Due to the costly nature of running vishing operations, the criminal networks behind such conspiracies typically use the method to target “high-value resources”, employing techniques such as caller ID spoofing in an effort to convince victims they are calling from a bank, tax authority or some other organisation they might have reason to be in contact with.
Another form of telecoms fraud described in the report involves scammers setting up an automated system to call a large sample of numbers, allowing the phone to ring only once in a bid to trick victims into calling back a premium rate line.
Unveiling the report last week, Steven Wilson, Head of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, commented: “Telecommunications fraud is another example of criminals ‘hacking the system’ in order to abuse legitimate enterprises for criminal gain.
“While this is not a new crime area, it does represent a new challenge for many law enforcement agencies throughout the European Union.”
Advising members of the public to be more alive to the threat they might face from telecoms fraud, Craig Gibson, Principal Threat Defence Architect at Trend Micro, added: “We trust that our phones will work, that we can work from home, that we can be paid through our ATM accounts, and that we can shop online.
“We tend not to think about what is under the covers of the unseen global network we rely on so much.”
British men jailed over £5 million Premier League football match streaming scam
Three men have been jailed for a combined total of 17 years by a UK court after being convicted of running a pirate streaming service that offered illegal access to live Premier League football matches to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and private homes in England and Wales over a 10-year period.
Steven King, Paul Rolston and Daniel Malone, who ran companies trading under the names of Dreambox, Dreambox TV Limited, and Digital Switchover Limited, are said to have raked in over £5 million ($6.53 million) over the decade during which their scam lasted.
Head of the operation King was handed a seven-year-and-four-month sentence, while Rolston was jailed for six years and four months, and Malone for three years and three months.
Warwick Crown Court heard during a four-week trial how the men exploited a range of technologies to facilitate their illicit streaming service, conspiring with a number of third parties both in Britain and throughout Europe to create and illegally broadcast livestreams of games.
Finding all three men guilty of conspiracy to defraud, a judge described the operation as a “dishonest, dodgy business”, noting that the defendants’ efforts to frustrate broadcasters’ attempts to investigate the scam had been an aggravating factor that was reflected in the length of their sentences.
The judge was also critical of the “profoundly dishonest” businesses that profited from using the men’s streaming services without paying broadcasters.
Commenting on the men’s sentences in a statement, Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb said: “Today’s decision has provided further evidence that the law will catch up with companies and individuals that defraud rights owners and breach copyright.
“The custodial sentences issued here reflect the seriousness and the scale of the crimes.
“Using these services is unlawful and fans should be aware that when they do so they enter into agreements with illegal businesses.
“They also risk being victims of fraud or identity theft by handing over personal data and financial details.”
Kieron Sharp, Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact), said the length of the men’s sentences demonstrated that the illegal streaming of Premier League football matches is a serious crime, adding: “For those people using services such as this, do not think that this is a grey area – it is not, it is breaking the law.”
It is estimated that the typical British pub that shows Premier League matches legally pays £20,000 a year to broadcasters such as Sky and BT.
Dance music festivals fuelling rise in ecstasy use among young people in South America, UNODC claims
Ecstasy and new psychoactive substances (NPS) that mimic the effects of MDMA are becoming increasingly popular among young people in South America, according to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In the latest edition of its Global SMART Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean, the agency said secondary school pupils and university students are taking the drugs in greater quantities at electronic music festivals.
The report also revealed that some Caribbean countries have experienced an uptick in the use of ecstasy-like substances largely on account of the fact that tourists are bringing the drugs with them while on holiday.
Noting that while seizures of these types of drugs are generally much lower in Latin America and the Caribbean than in North America and Europe, UNODC observes that some countries in the region have seen large amounts of ecstasy-like substances discovered by law enforcement authorities in recent years.
“The market of ecstasy in the region has evolved significantly and has become more complex over time,” the report says.
“Currently, ecstasy is available in two main forms; as tablets containing varying doses of MDMA, ranging from no MDMA at all to high doses, and as powder or in crystalline form.
“Both forms of presentation often contain substances other than MDMA, including NPS with stimulant effects.”
Looking at the emergence of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNODC said 14 countries in the region have reported the presence of 178 different synthetic drugs belonging to a diverse range of chemical groups over the course of the past decade.
In 2017, more than 60 different NPS were reported to UNODC by nine countries in the region, highlighting the emergence of a trend that the agency said presents a serious threat to public health and challenges for policy makers and law enforcement authorities there.
At the end of last week, UNODC announced that it had donated an on-site drug testing device to law enforcement agencies in Jamaica to help counter the threat of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean.
After being presented with the device, Cheryl Spencer, UN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica, said: “Jamaica regards this support to the country through this device as not only a tangible demonstration of international cooperation but also as technology transfer, elements which are critical to the development of small developing countries like Jamaica.”
- Telecoms fraud costs more than €29 billion a year, Europol report reveals
- Blaming Facebook and YouTube for amplifying the Christchurch shooter’s message lets the likes of 8chan off the hook
- British men jailed over £5 million Premier League football match streaming scam
- Dance music festivals fuelling rise in ecstasy use among young people in South America, UNODC claims
- Women and young girls from Myanmar trafficked as ‘sex slaves’ to families in China, HRW report warns
9 February 2018
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