Dutch Nab 12 in E-Mail Scam Bust

Dutch authorities have arrested 12 suspects in two cities as part of a joint U.S./Dutch investigation into a criminal gang operating the so-called "419" e-mail scam.

The arrests took place during raids of seven houses in Amsterdam and neighboring Zaandam this week, and authorities also seized computers and about $30,000 in cash, Amsterdam police said.

They said that Americans had lost at least $2.4 million to the gang since the investigation began in September "and likely many times more than that."

The police, in a statement, said the four chief suspects will likely be sent to the United States for prosecution, with the rest to be prosecuted in the Netherlands.

Names and personal details of the suspects were not released.

Under the "419" scam — named after the Nigerian legal code for fraud — criminals send junk e-mail to thousands of unsuspecting people offering them a share in a large fortune if they can only provide a smaller amount of money up front. The criminal takes the money and then disappears.

"Despite repeated publicity and generally distributed warnings, people still fall for these proposals," the police statement said.

The investigation was carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Postal Service and the Dutch Economic and Financial Investigation Bureau.