Authorities have arrested over 100 individuals in connection with an identity theft ring in NYC. Those accused allegedly "victimized thousands" across the globe, reaching as far as Europe, China and the Middle East.
According to the Queens County District Attorney's Office, a total of 111 individuals were charged, and 86 of these accused have been brought into custody; authorities are still looking for the other 25 suspects. The arrests included various charges such as enterprise corruption, theft and grand larceny.
The identity theft ring is said to have been spread across different industries in the New York City area and is believed to have been operational since 2010. The ring of suspects include restaurant workers, bank tellers and other service employees. Richard Brown, Queens District Attorney, called it the "largest" and "most sophisticated" fraud case he'd ever seen.
Reportedly this was an elaborate scheme and had several layers of activity to cash in after stealing credit card numbers from unsuspecting customers. A few of those accused are believed to have stolen credit card information from skimming and others actively stole credit card information online.
Once the credit card details were collected, the numbers were sold. Teams of illegal credit card manufacturers would use the numbers to forge various credit card brands including major card companies, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. In some instances, fake government IDs (i.e. driver's licenses) were also made to use in conjunction with the fabricated credit cards. The next layer would involve 'shoppers' who would take the falsified credit cards and go on purchasing sprees to purchase goods at high-end stores, reselling the wares overseas.
The DA's press release included a statement from Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly:
“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.”
Over $13 million was spent on merchandise which included iPads, iPhones, computers, Gucci bags, and watches. Other charges included rented jets and high-end cars and hotel room rentals. In addition to the identity theft related crimes, the Queens County DA's office also has charged some of the defendants with indictments relating to burglaries and robberies throughout Queens County, including conspiracy to commit bank robbery, cargo heists at Kennedy Airport and other thefts.
Earlier this year another big bust was made. In February an indictment was given by the Manhattan District Attorney's office; in this ring, 27 were arrested and charged with 57 counts on two separate conspiracies. This group was known as "S3", a credit card forgery and identity theft ring based in Brooklyn.
In that indictment, forty-eight counts were associated with incidents committed between June 2008 and December 2010, and nine counts were associated with the second conspiracy for events which occurred between September 2010 and December 2010. In this investigation Apple was a popular merchant for theft ring's 'shoppers' to target and use the manufactured credit cards.
Unfortunately in the digital age, credit card thefts through skimming and other measures are not uncommon. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported for 2009 complaints totaled 336,655 with a $559.7 million total dollar loss. This is a significant rise from 2008; 2010 saw a dip in complaints, however identity theft was still amongst the most common complaints to IC3.