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The bikie, a cloned business and a million-dollar scam

Queensland police have arrested a bikie who allegedly stole a Western Australian investment company’s identity and stole $1.4 million from mum and dad investors.

In the second case of business identity theft this week, 33-year-old Tyrone de Luca, said to be a member of the Black Uhlans bikie gang, was arrested yesterday for his involvement in the investment scheme.

Police suspect another man with links to the Bandidos was also involved, but he is yet to be questioned.

Investigators are alleging the men adopted the identity of the WA business, cloning its website and registering the name M6 Securities Group.

The men are also said to have created a fake Perth business address and telephone number.

Detective Inspector Phillip Stevens of Taskforce Maxima said at a press conference yesterday the perpetrators had also adopted the persona of the directors of the legitimate business and used a call centre to generate leads.

“[They] have contacted potential victims, they have approached the victims and they have encouraged them to deposit money into a variety of investment schemes,” Stevens says.

“In exchange for that investment they are given a user ID and password to a backend of the website where that backend is manipulated by someone involved in the crime to give the illusion they’re making a profit. At the end of the day they don’t make a profit and the money dissipates.”

The call centre workers involved in the scam were said to be unaware the company was a front for a bikie operation.

“The template for these things is that the people involved in the telemarketing or the cold call centres don't have an idea of the ultimate gain,” Stevens says.

“Their role is simply to make contact and to pass it on to the people who will approach the victims.”

Stevens says between 30 and 40 fake call centres are operating on the Gold Coast.

Warfield and Associates chief executive Brett Warfield told SmartCompany business identity theft such as this is becoming easier to execute.

“It’s harder than individual identity theft, but from what I’ve read, it’s been made easier by the internet,” he says.

“People looking for investment options are now bypassing traditional sources of information like the newspaper and financial advisors and searching on the internet. It’s easy to establish an identity online which takes over from another organisation.”

Warfield says with a “half decent IT specialist” skilled in online marketing, a legitimate-looking website can be created in a matter of months including links, Google Adwords and key word search terms.

“It’s not hard to do… It can be done offshore. You don’t even need to have someone on the ground, it can be done from a desktop computer at your home and money can be transferred overseas,” he says.

Warfield says the Queensland bikies would have taken the identity of a WA business strategically with the intent to deceive potential investors.

“It would have been an attempt to separate the investor from the possibility of them doing background research,” he says

“Anyone thinking of investing needs to do due diligence and some fundamental background research.”

This latest scheme saw the union of two motorcycle gangs for the initiative, something which has become increasingly more common, Stevens says.

“There seems to be no boundaries as to who they associate with. It seems to be becoming more common that criminal motor cycle gangs will do business with one another if it suits their purposes,” he says.

This arrest is the first for the operation, but more are likely to come.

“We have identified a number of companies linked to these fraudulent activities. The arrest of the male person is by no means the end of these investigations; it merely forms part of a great investigative strategy,” Stevens says.

Warfield says as a blanket rule people should not invest with anyone on the basis of a cold call.

“Number one you’ll be dealing with someone on the end of the phone with a script in front of them. They tend to talk over the top of the person, spruiking the product and how great it is and it catches people off guard. So don’t enter into the conversation.

“Remember, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. If the market is paying X per cent and someone offers you three times that, realise there is a risk there.”

Yolanda Redrup

Journalist

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Yolanda is a SmartCompany reporter who has a knack for covering business misconduct and retail issues. Previously, she was the editor of RMIT's student magazine Catalyst. Follow her on twitter: @YolandaRedrup
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