Fraud Factory

Credit: OCCRP
Published: March 2, 2020

One January night in Kyiv, a company called Milton Group threw a glitzy New Year’s party for its staff. To the strains of a pop-rock cover band, contortionists and fire-dancers whirled under neon lights as young salespeople revelled in the spoils of a record-breaking year selling investments in cryptocurrencies and stocks. The firm’s management distributed cash, cars, and other prizes. One star salesman got a free apartment for a year.

But the real business of Milton Group was fraud. And even as its young employees partied in Kyiv, their victims across the world were losing their homes and assets.

“I have nothing to live for,” said one of them, a 67-year-old Swedish woman who is now homeless and destitute. She asked to remain anonymous because she was so ashamed of her situation.

The elderly Swedish woman who lost everything to Milton Group. Credit: Alexander Mahmoud/DN
Drummers at Milton Group’s New Year’s party. Credit: Lyubo-Dorogo

The people who scammed her also took careful steps to guarantee their anonymity. They hid behind stage names and conjured up entire fake cryptocurrency brands out of thin air, all to obscure the fact that their victims’ millions of dollars in “investments” were disappearing.

But this might be about to change.

Last year, a whistleblower approached Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter with a remarkable story of massive fraud — and the evidence to prove it.

He said he had been employed since August at Milton Group’s Kyiv office, tucked away into the upper floors of a city mall, but had quickly become disturbed by what went on there.

Through relentless onslaughts of phone calls and emails, Milton’s army of young salespeople scammed people around the world who were vulnerable to their sales pitch, whether that was because they were elderly, infirm, naive — or simply optimistic.

Journalists spent months following up on the extensive evidence provided by this whistleblower: thousands of call logs, customer lists, documentation of money transfers, and strikingly callous internal notes on how to target prospective victims, then keep wringing cash out of them.

External content from YouTube

This content is provided by a third-party. By playing this content, you consent to cookies being set and personal data processed by the third-party provider.

Law enforcement officials interviewed by OCCRP and its partners say these types of fraud networks are difficult to dismantle, because they do most of their work by phone and online, hopping virtually across borders and even oceans to track down their victims.

Because of this, we knew that any effort to tell this story would also have to be global. We helped to recruit journalists at more than 20 media outlets around the world to comb through documents, hunt down leads, and interview people who appeared on Milton’s client database.

Over several months, we pieced together the evidence to discover exactly how the scammers targeted their victims, and what happened to these people after they had lost everything.

The story took us from Kyiv to small towns around the world — to Georgia and Albania, where we learned of other call centers linked to Milton Group — and finally, to Sweden, where the whistleblower delivered his evidence to prosecutors last week.

Clutching a briefcase of documents, he said he was relieved to have the opportunity to do the right thing. His time inside the Kyiv fraud factory, the whistleblower told Dagens Nyheter, had been profoundly disturbing.

“I want justice to prevail,” he said. “It must be stopped.”


Down the Bitcoin Funnel: The Tech Firms Driving Investors to Ruin with Fake Celebrity News

Supercharged by Google and Facebook, a flood of fake news stories touting get-rich-quick schemes are funneling hopeful Bitcoin investors toward dubious brokers and organized criminals.

1 December 2020 Read the article

Trail of Broken Lives Leads to Kyiv Call Center

An industrial-scale fraud committed through call centers has left a trail of victims across the globe.

2 March 2020 Read the article

Web of Call-Center Scammers Reaches Into Albania, Georgia

A scam call center based out of a Kyiv mall unmasked by journalists this week has links to other operations far beyond Ukrainan borders.

6 March 2020 Read the article

Fraud Factory Firms Traced to Penniless Proxies

Companies used to hawk get-rich-quick investment schemes from a Kyiv call center were registered in the Caribbean and Estonia in the names of impoverished Swedes.

18 May 2020 Read the article

Partner Stories

DN Reveals the Bitcoin Fraudsters Who Trick Swedish Pensioners out of Everything They Own

Phone salesmen with promises of high returns convinced them to invest everything they owned — and more. But it was all a scam. Although millions of kronor have been lost, the police have not even tried to investigate the crimes.

Read the article

The Men Behind the Fraud Factory Live Lives of Luxury; “The Father” is a Business Partner to Former Ministers

In collaboration with OCCRP’s international journalism network, we can now reveal two more fraud factories in Albania and Georgia.

Read the article

Inside the Kyiv Fraud Factory Stealing Senior Citizens’ Savings

Marie, 73, in Vingåker. Maj-Britt, 67, in Dalarna. Östen, 75, in Lappträsk. They have all had their lives ruined by reckless bitcoin fraudsters.

Read the article

Deceived by Bitcoin Fraud: “I Have Nothing to Live For”

They wanted to bolster their pensions with some extra cash. But fraudsters took over their computers, hijacked their accounts — and left several of them indebted for life, without money for food and shelter.

Read the article

How a Ukraine-Based Boiler Room Allegedly Scams Victims Worldwide Out of Millions

Things were looking up for Yamelin Montero, a 34-year-old single mother in the Dominican Republic. Her small investment in digital currency through a company called CryptoMB was soaring — or so she thought.

Read the article

'Swindled With Bitcoin': Australian Victims Count Cost of Online Finance Scam

An estimated $100m has been wheedled out of people around the world in a cryptocurrency scam run out of a Kiev call center. We talk to four victims.

Read the article

Revealed: Fake 'Traders' Allegedly Prey on Victims in Global Investment Scam

Suspected fraudsters lure investors with fake ads featuring celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay.

Read the article

Sold Her Home to Pay, No Money, Crying

International fraud call-center took almost $13,000 from more than 20 Hungarian victims. Several told their stories to Direkt36.

Read the article

Fraud factory: Sellers of Fictitious Investments Defrauded People on Several Continents

An international team of journalists identified an organized group that defrauded naive investors out of millions. There are also victims in Lithuania.

Read the article

From Ukraine to Colombia: The Great Crypto-Con

More than 180 victims in different countries reveal how they lost their money by investing in cryptocurrency brands controlled from Eastern Europe.

Read the article

Fraud Factory

In Kyiv there is an office where telemarketers squeeze money out of people, by fair means or foul. Hikka, 69, lost all his savings to these scammers. An employee made an undercover recording and shared it with a group of international journalists. Now we will explain how the fraud factory works.

Read the article

From Kyiv to Spain: Eastern European ‘Call Centers’ Investigated for Emptying Thousands of Accounts

Online investment platforms are being used to scam small investors from around the world.

Read the article

Fraud Factory, the Ex-Employee’s Story: “Pensioners, Entrepreneurs, or Students: They Steal from Everyone”

La Stampa’s investigation is part of a collaboration with 23 news outlets who investigated the Fraud Factory. The interviews with a whistleblower revealed the secrets of Milton Group, a Kyiv call center that defrauded savers with the promise of cryptocurrency investments.

Read the article

I was Hoping I Could Buy a New Wheelchair. I Just Lost All My Money

The Fraud Factory: Stories of the Italian victims. Pensioners and small business owners cheated by a call center with the mirage of amazing earnings.

Read the article

The Fraud Factory: What’s Behind the Calls Inviting You to Invest Online

A call center promises easy earnings from cryptocurrencies. Many Italians are among its victims.

Read the article

The World Behind the Headset

The Mandarin Plaza bills itself as the “first and largest shopping mall in Ukraine, where you can buy everything from toothbrushes to yachts.” But the mall is also home base to hundreds of fraudulent call-center salespeople who have robbed thousands of victims around the world of more than $60 million.

Read the article

Hello, Here are Millions

Thousands of people around the world have lost at least $60 million because of a call center based out of one of the best addresses in Kyiv, Ukraine, including several Czechs.

Read the article

The Great Ukrainian Internet Fraud

A Ukranian call center defrauded people from South America to Scandinavia, using alleged bitcoin transactions. Croatian citizens are among them.

Read the article

At Least 25 Slovenes Among the Defrauded

Among the hundreds that were defrauded in an internet scheme revealed by journalists in 21 countries, there are at least 25 Slovenes. Their money was not invested as promised, but wired to personal accounts and anonymous bitcoin wallets around the world.

Read the article

They Phoned From a Call Center in Kyiv

Thousands Have Lost Money on Cryptocurrency Scams.

Read the article

Fraud Factory

On the upper floors of one of Kyiv’s most luxurious malls, a host of employees are working to scam people from all over the world.

Read the article

Now the Scammers Are Calling

A Norwegian man has lost large sums to the Milton Group’s call center. While VG interviews him, they call and try to trick him three times.

Read the article


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

And get our latest investigations on organized crime and corruption delivered straight to your inbox.