A criminal mastermind has been nabbed accused of tricking backpackers into selling fake gold and stealing their identities to launder the profits.
The 29-year-old Gold Coast man allegedly lured dozens of primarily Asian tourists to work for him to sell the fake gold and other precious metals to dealers.
As part of their employment, they surrendered their passports.
Police say the man then set up bank accounts in their names, using them to launder the proceeds of crime.
Raids over the weekend uncovered a cache of stolen passports, counterfeit money, fake metals and weapons, Detective Superintendent Brian Hay told reporters on Monday.
"This is very clever indeed," he said.
"It will be alleged the mastermind behind these operations had gone to some lengths to actually distance themselves as much as possible from getting their hands dirty, so to speak."
Supt Hay said the syndicate had been in operation since at least last year.
Detectives are still trying to determine just how many foreigners were targeted.
A 23-year-old Korean woman has also been charged in relation to several fraud and identity theft offences.
She'll appear in Southport Magistrates Court on August 22, while the alleged ringleader will front court on September 5.
Supt Hay said the syndicate saw backpackers as an easy target.
"They come to this country with an element of trust in the Australian way of life and ... they're here for a short period of time," he said.
"They won't be in this country for such a long time as to hang around and possibly give evidence against that person."
The syndicate came unstuck after police received reports of stolen passports and fake precious metals and linked the two.
He said the ringleader was likely skilled in metallurgy and urged anyone in the industry with information to contact police.
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