Intercepting a
Criminal Arms Racket

Unmasking a new POI for a criminal organization that’s been terrorizing a country in LATAM for over 25 years

Since its establishment in 1993, a known criminal organization has been tied to drug trafficking, armed highway robbery, prison breaks, and prison riots. This large LATAM criminal organization has around 20,000 members, 20% of whom are in prison. That’s why, when an operation to transfer US arms into Latin America was uncovered, this organization was the prime suspect.

 

Naturally, the start of an investigation is time-sensitive and information and leads must be gathered as quickly as possible before events take place and people disperse. Comprehensive web intelligence platform, ProFound, was therefore chosen as the central digital investigation tool as analysts embarked on the task of identifying key persons of interest (POIs) within the organization.

In a time-sensitive investigation leads must be gathered before events take place and people disperse.

The first stage of the investigation included a keyword search on the criminal organization name. The Source Development module of the platform returned a Twitter account from which timeline data and followers were automatically collected, and analysis of the data confirmed an affinity to the suspect – this provided investigators with a solid enough lead to get to work and scale up the investigation.

Next, investigators used the Visual Link Analysis module on the suspicious Twitter account, leading them to three more suspicious accounts, which were later confirmed to be linked to the suspect organization. Upon further analysis, it was discovered that one specific follower was common to all organization Twitter accounts. With such close connections to the organization, the lead turned ‘hot’ and stamped the individual as a POI.

Investigators pushed forward using ProFound, filtering the POI’s Twitter account through a list of indicative terms. The list included pre-determined terms such as “arms”, “crime”, the LATAM country name and “USA”, as well as terms that had been seen to come up repeatedly within the organization posts, such as another country name. This filtering provided the confirmation needed – the suspected POI was in fact associated with the suspect organization – the investigation could be pushed forward through SIGINT and HUMINT.

 

Investigations such as this show that social media is a mine of information regarding illegal activity – it may not be the smartest move, but criminals do tweet about their crimes and share sensitive information online. Having the tools to mine through the tweets and posts is invaluable in terms of data being uncovered and time being saved, to kick off an investigation in the right direction.

Social media is a mine of information regarding illegal activity, having the digital tools to mine this information is invaluable

The investigation and analysis described above, all of which was carried out within just two hours (!!), led to the discovery of 10 tweets, out of 120 posted by the suspected POI, that directly referred to trafficking of arms from the USA into Latin America, including the weapons bought and where they were being forwarded to.

All in all, a great result – from zero to a hot lead and POI within two hours.

Meet the Modules

Source Development

Generates leads based on keywords, email addresses, phone numbers and other identifiers.

Virtual Link Analysis

Analyzes friends, content and additional layers of metadata, such as a Facebook users’ hometown, to create visualizations of connections between suspects.