A pair of provocative influencers have swept up in mass arrests accused of taking part in an online scam that defrauded many of their followers.
Police teams carried out simultaneous raids in the Turkish provinces of Izmir, Istanbul, Ankara, Kastamonu, Karabuk, Malatya and Mersin, and detained 20 people on November 9.
Among those arrested were influencers Simge Barankoglu, who boasts nearly 1 million Instagram followers, and Yesim Aydin, who has 161,000 Instagram fans.
According to local reports, the gang scammed internet users by informing them they had won a cash prize on a social media game, but could only claim it by paying a certain amount in taxes first.
During the coordinated police raids, officers seized a number of computers, mobile phones, USB memory sticks, SD cards, and other equipment allegedly used in the online scam.
The 20 suspects are accused of defrauding 250 people across Turkey for around TRY 3 million ($410,000) during a six-month period.
Eighteen of the suspects, including Barankoglu and Aydin, have been placed in custody while two have been released under bail conditions.
Barankoglu said in a statement: "I make a living by doing advertising on social media. I thought this was like any other advert. I do not know the parties and the complainants. I do not accept the accusations."
Aydin also refuted the charges, saying: "I make a living with social media adverts. These people contacted me and said they wanted to work with me. I accepted because that's my job. I would never have accepted it if I knew that fraud was being committed."
"The police told me that the names given to me were fake. I didn't try to defraud anyone. I did not contact anyone, I did not ask for money. I just got the advertising fee. I am very sorry," she added.
The investigation continues.
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