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New York police break up huge identify theft ring

11 october 2011, 14:52
©RIA Novosti
©RIA Novosti
New York police have broken up an international identity theft ring that made fake credit cards using information swiped off real cards in banks, restaurants and retail stores, AFP reports, citing authorities Friday.

More than 111 people have been charged and 86 were detained in the operation, which involved five criminal organizations in the New York borough of Queens with links in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, they said.

"These weren't holdups at gunpoint, but the impact on victims was the same," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "They were robbed."

The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, said it was "by far the largest -- and certainly among the most sophisticated -- identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across."

The investigation, which began in October 2009, also netted an additional two dozen people on charges related to robberies and burglaries in Queens.

The way the scheme worked was employees, and sometimes business owners, in restaurants, banks and retail stores would use skimming devices to swipe customers' credit card information.

The information was then passed to bosses of five criminal organizations operating from Queens, who in turn passed it to "manufacturers" who would encode the information in fake cards, using a "reverse skimming device."

They allegedly produced American Express, Mastercards Visa, and Discover Cards with forged security numbers, logos, and sometimes supplementary fake ids like New York drivers' licenses.

The fake cards were then given to "shoppers" who used them to buy high end electronics and other easily resaleable items, while living it up in luxury hotels and beach resorts, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors estimated the losses over a 16 month period at $13 million.

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