AFP alleges man ‘money mule’ for internl crime syndicate
A DUTCH national accused of being a "money mule" for a sophisticated crime syndicate that stole more than $3 million from Australian bank accounts, converted it to cryptocurrency and then shipped it offshore has fronted court.
Pim Boudewijn Abe de Groot, 22, appeared in Ayr Magistrates Court yesterday facing a charge of dealing with property less than $100,000 that is suspected to be proceeds of crime. Australian Federal Police officers arrested de Groot last month when he attended Ayr Police Station for an unrelated driving matter.
The federal charge relates to a three-day period between January 26 and January 29, last year.
Police allege the crime network laundered more than $3.5m after an investigation launched early last year into malware targeting bank accounts across the country and overseas.
Despite this estimation, the total amount of money stolen is yet to be determined. A statement from the AFP said it believed the cybercrime syndicate behind the malware used it to steal bank account details to extract funds from victims before using a network of money mules to transfer the stolen money offshore.
Officers worked alongside banking partners to identify victims and link the alleged money mules to the stolen funds.
Investigators followed a money trail from one victim to an account that allegedly belonged to de Groot.
In one instance, police allege he had $18,000 in stolen funds transferred to the account, converted the money to Bitcoin via a Bitcoin ATM in Sydney before sending it offshore.
It is alleged de Groot took a 5 per cent commission of the money before it was sent overseas. When de Groot attended the Ayr Police Station for an unrelated matter on December 16 last year, AFP officers executed a search warrant and arrested him.
Duty lawyer Ralph Lake represented the 22-year-old, who is on bail, at his first court appearance yesterday morning.
He asked Acting Magistrate Scott Luxton to adjourn the matter for a plea in late February.
A further charge of failing to provide a specimen of breath dating back to a day prior to his arrest was also adjourned to this date.
If found guilty, de Groot faces a maximum penalty of two years' prison for the more serious offence.
Originally published as AFP alleges man 'money mule' for international crime syndicate