Over 100 Arrested in Credit Card Fraud Operation

Monday, October 10, 2011

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Queens county, New York district attorney Richard Brown last week announced indictments had been brought against against 111 defendants in what is being described as the largest and most sophisticated credit card fraud operations in history.

"This is by far the largest – and certainly among the most sophisticated – identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across. Credit card fraud and identity theft are two of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, afflicting millions of victims and costing billions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions," said District Attorney Brown.

Among those charged are insiders, including bank employees, retail and service workers who all played designated roles in the massive operation and reported directly to the criminal syndicate's organizers. The defendants are alleged to have stolen more than $13 million dollars in just over a one year period, according to investigators.

“These weren’t holdups at gunpoint , but the impact on victims was the same. They were robbed. We assigned detectives to financial crimes because of the potential victimization is so great, especially as the use of credits cards and their vulnerability to identity theft have grown along with the Internet,” Police Commissioner Kelly said.

The defendant's actions during the course of the fraud operation was often reckless, as the culprits treated themselves to four-star accommodations, wild shopping sprees, and even chartering private jets.

“Many of the defendants charged today are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets, and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and expensive handbags with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers. Even after the culprits are caught and prosecuted, their victims are still faced with the difficult task of having to repair their credit ratings and financial reputations. In some cases, that process can take years,” said Brown.

“Operation Swiper”, as the investigation was called, began in earnest in 2009, determined that the syndicate obtained stolen credit card information on the black market in order to produce counterfeit cards.

"According to the indictments, the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers through various means and which were then used to manufacture forged credit and identification cards," the district attorney's office said.

The bogus cards were distributed to teams of "shoppers" in various metropolitan areas around the country. The shoppers would purchase high-end items that could be easily unloaded through criminal "fencing" operations, and the stolen goods would be collected by the "crew leaders", who then funneled the property to the ring leaders.

"Once the counterfeit cards were created, according to the indictments, they were ultimately given to teams of “shoppers” who were sent out on shopping expeditions in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Los Angeles and other areas of the United States to purchase high-end electronics and other merchandise – such as designer handbags, and game consoles – which either had been requested or could easily be fenced and re-sold, typically over the Internet," the district attorney's office noted.

Source:  http://www.queensda.org/newpressreleases/2011/october/op%20swiper_credit%20card_id%20fraud_10_07_2011_ind.pdf

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