Ukraine's National Police uncovered a criminal fraud network, in which individuals allegedly sold non-existent vehicles, including to soldiers and volunteers who planned to use them on the front, the service reported on Oct. 4.
Six of the scheme's perpetrators were already in jail for robbery, and six others were still at large.
The organizers of the scheme posted advertisements for cars with prices significantly below market rate on social media, negotiated with the intended customers, insisted on being paid in advance, and promptly disappeared once the money had been transferred. The cars, if they ever existed, were never delivered.
The police identified at least 22 individuals who had fallen victim to the scheme, including an undisclosed number of soldiers and volunteers who had intended to use the vehicles in front-line areas.
In a particularly egregious case, one of the perpetrators contacted an injured soldier recovering from his wounds in the hospital and offered to sell him a van and deliver it to the front at a highly discounted price. The soldier agreed and transferred the perpetrator the money, but the car was never delivered.
The full amount of money defrauded is unclear, and the police believe that the true number of victims is likely higher than the 22 confirmed individuals, the report said.
The organizers of the scheme and their accomplices have been charged with fraud, and face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Ukrainian police have uncovered a number of other fraudulent schemes that take advantage of the ongoing war, including a large-scale draft evasion plot involving the creation of falsified medical certificates.