The CCC commenced Operation Unwind in March 2015 to investigate an alleged crime syndicate known as the Irish Boys.
The Gold Coast-based syndicate was suspected of operating organised and sophisticated cold call investment frauds (also known as “boiler room frauds”). Intelligence suggested that the syndicate was selling bogus computer software and managed investment schemes throughout Australia that were incapable of producing the high yields as promised by the syndicate and designed to defraud victims of their hard-earned savings.
A police taskforce was established with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) to assist with carrying out the investigation.
In August 2015 the taskforce shutdown two active boiler rooms and charged six people with aggravated fraud offences — one of which is also facing charges of possession of tainted property. It is alleged that these boiler rooms defrauded at least 150 victims across Australia of at least $4 million. There are substantial penalties for frauds of this size, including a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment.
Boiler room frauds, or cold call investment frauds, involve the use of outbound telephone call centres where victims are persuaded by salespeople to invest in financial management schemes and sports betting computer software that will never achieve the promised returns.
Operation Unwind revealed these boiler rooms use a range of misleading and dishonest techniques to deceive members of the public which include:
- the use of false names by all sales and support staff
- the use of virtual offices to deflect any face to face engagement and to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the operation
- vetting processes to prevent unsolicited product inquiries (in other words don’t call us, we’ll call you)
- the false representation of seemingly clean, long standing companies to provide an impression of complaints-free longevity and respectability
- false representations to customers about limited availability of the products
- only providing customers with licensed documentation with fine print warning of the high risk nature of the investments after the deal has been closed and the money paid over.
The investigation is ongoing.