Gardaí have arrested members of a Limerick-based organised crime gang on suspicion of running a vintage car fraud scam.
The gang members are being questioned on suspicion they took possession of valuable vintage cars during transactions where only a small portion of the sale price was paid.
In other cases they are suspected of having advertised vintage cars for sale but when they received the sale price from the purchaser, a much inferior car was delivered to the customer.
Four suspects were arrested on Tuesday morning in Rathkeale where the gang members are based. The group under investigation is known to the Garda locally and also to national Garda units.
They have been involved in a very wide range of crimes for many years including thefts from farms and building sites along with antiques and jewellery.
Detectives investigating the vintage car scam believe about 20 vehicles were obtained by the gang by fraudulent or deceptive means. Those vehicles, some of which have now been impounded by gardaí, are worth about €360,000.
Many of the victims of the scam are older people who have been targeted across the country and over a long period of time.
The arrest of four suspects on Tuesday has followed a lengthy investigation by gardaí in Limerick and the Dublin-based Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Det Supt Michael Mullen of the bureau said he and his team believe the scam involves more victims than those already identified.
“I would like to appeal today, particularly to the elderly community to contact your local Garda station if you believe that you have been deceived in the purchase or sale of a vintage or classic car in circumstances where either money has not been received or money received far less than that of the value of the car,” he said.
In cases where the gang members have obtained vehicles through fraud and deception, a deposit has been paid with the promise of the remainder of the purchase price via bank transfer.
However, while the vehicles were taken away by the gang members after the deposits were paid, the balance of the purchase was never paid.
In other cases high quality vintage vehicles were advertised for sale but when money was paid via a bank transfer a vehicle not even remotely similar to the vehicle advertised was delivered to the customer.
Garda sources said the suspects travelled around the country to carry out the fraudulent transactions. They appear to have selected older victims in many cases because the gang members regarded them as easier to deceive and more unlikely to report the matter to the gardaí for fear of retaliation.
The four men under arrest were detained during a major search operation in Rathkeale this morning at locations where some of the vehicles were being stored. They were being detained in Garda stations through Limerick.