By Sudarshana Banerjee
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, announced that 111 individuals have been indicted in a identity theft case. The takedown is believed to be the largest such in U.S. history. The investigation – dubbed “Operation Swiper” – leading to the indictments and this week’s arrests began in October 2009 as part of a joint investigation.
The defendants, members of five organized forged credit card and identity theft rings based in Queens County and having ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, are charged in ten indictments with stealing the personal credit information of thousands of unwitting American and European consumers and costing these individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than $13 million in losses over a 16-month period. Eighty-six of the defendants are in custody and twenty-five are presently being sought.
Credit card fraud and identity theft are two of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. 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. 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 – which either had been requested or could easily be fenced and re-sold, typically over the Internet. You can find the official statement from the district attorney’s office here.
Richard A. Brown: This is by far the largest – and certainly among the most sophisticated – identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across.
Sudarshana Banerjee is consulting editor with techtaffy.com. She can be reached at [email protected]