Almost 30 people have been charged after a police crackdown on “money mules” who keep cash in their bank accounts for criminals.
Officers from the Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit (OCCTU) arrested and charged the group of 29 in connection with money laundering offences in a week-long operation last month.
Police warned organised crime groups are targeting school children to become money mules and are recruiting them via social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Authorities warned acting as a mule is a criminal offence which can lead to long prison sentences.
Police have sent a letter highlighting the dangers to Education Scotland, and have asked for it to be issued to the parents or guardians of every secondary school pupil.
Detective Inspector Graeme Everest said: “We are regularly receiving information on individuals who are allowing their accounts to be used for this type of criminal activity.
“People are enticed in with the belief it’s quick, easy money and assured nothing will happen to them. If you do enter into this agreement, you are breaking the law. It is a criminal offence and the effect on your life can be huge.
“The fraudsters involved in orchestrating mule accounts are often from serious organised crime groups and any involvement with them can be dangerous.
“There are victims affected by fraud across Scotland and this can have a devastating effect on people financially and emotionally. It isn’t a victim-less crime and by laundering money gained from these victims, you are playing a part in this.”
The 29 people charged are from Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Ayrshire, West Lothian and Glasgow.
They have all been reported to the procurator fiscal.
Andrew Laing, deputy procurator fiscal for specialist casework, said: “Those who help criminals, for example by allowing their bank accounts to be used to move dirty money through the financial system, can expect to be caught by the police, reported to Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and be prosecuted in court.
“COPFS has been working closely with the police, other law enforcement agencies and the banks and we will take robust action against any person involved in money laundering where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
Money mules are approached by criminals who ask them to use their account to hold money obtained through criminal activity, usually fraud.
The individual is then instructed to cover up the removal of large amounts of money through a variety of ways such as buying foreign currency, expensive jewellery or high value electrical items.
Anyone who has been approached to be involved in a money mule scheme is urged to contact police on 101.