The Spanish national police have identified and arrested a man who posed as an Interpol agent to scare women into allowing him to take nude pictures of them, before blackmailing them. Hundreds may have fallen victim to the ruse.
The 33-year-old was arrested in the coastal Spanish region of Alicante, local media reported on Sunday. He was busted after a sting operation, during which the police placed a surveillance device at a site where the man was supposed to meet his latest victim.
The Spaniard used a multistage con to get leverage against his female marks, according to the police. First, he collected photos and personal data that the women left on various dating websites and used those to fabricate their profiles on an adult site. The women were made to look like prostitutes – an occupation that is not illegal in Spain, but exists in a legal gray area and carries social stigma.
He would then contact them and pose as an Interpol agent investigating prostitution. He promised to help remove the fake profiles and protect women from foreign organized crime gangs, who supposedly took an interest in the ‘sex workers’, to coerce them into meeting him in person.
The encounters happened at a secluded wooded area, the police said. There the suspect pressured his victims into allowing him to take naked pictures of them, supposedly to document scars and other distinctive features of their bodies to confirm that their images were used in the prostitution profiles. Later, he threatened to send those photos to family and workmates unless more intimate images were sent to him.
The police noticed a pattern of similar complaints filed by victims of the con artist, but they couldn’t pinpoint the perpetrator until one woman became suspicious of his fake Interpol credentials and turned to Spanish law enforcement.
The sting operation gave the police probable cause to arrest the man and search his home. There they found almost 1,200 photos and videos of more than 700 women, some of them of a sexual nature, as well as other evidence of his alleged crimes.
The police are in the process of identifying and contacting the presumed victims of the suspect, who now faces a slate of charges, including violation of privacy, blackmail, and impersonating an officer of the law.
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