“This is by far the largest – and certainly among the most sophisticated – identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across,” said Queens DA Richard Brown. “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.
The people arrested are charged in 10 indictments with stealing the personal credit information of thousands of American and European consumers, costing the cardholders, financial institutions and retail businesses more than $13 million in losses over a 16-month period.
The Post first reported today that the NYPD had made the arrests in the sweeping credit card mega swipe scam.
Eighty-six of the defendants are in custody, while another 25 are wanted, authorities said.
Also, cops said nearly two dozen people were charged in six indictments with participating in burglaries and robberies throughout Queens. The Queens DA’s office said four defendants were charged with conspiring to commit a bank robbery in Forest Hills.
Five are charged with stealing more than $95,000 worth of cargo from Kennedy Airport and seven are accused of stealing approximately $850,000 worth of computer equipment from the Citigroup Building in Long Island City, the DA said.
“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 and jewelry with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers,” said Brown.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the scammers “victimized thousands of Americans, including innocent New Yorkers. They produced reams of fake credit cards. They weren’t holdups at gunpoint, but the impact on victims was the same. They were robbed.”
“These thieves even posted pictures of themselves on social network at sites of high-end hotels and rented cars in high-end villas,” he added.
Brown said that more than 90 people connected to the scam have been charged in five indictments charging 784 pattern acts with, among other crimes, enterprise corruption under New York’s Organized Crime Control Act.
He also said they are also accused of allegedly being members and associates of organized criminal enterprises that operated between May 2010 and last month, scheming to defraud thousands of American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover Card customers.
According to the indictments, the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers and then used to that to make forged credit and ID 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 parts of the US to buy designer handbags, video game consoles and jewelry.
The types of goods purchased included iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, Rolex watches, Macbook Pro, Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags from Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
It is alleged that during the shopping sprees, some of the people used forged credit cards to stay at such five-star hotels as the Fontainbleau and The Royal Palm in Miami Beach and the Las Casitas Village, the high-end private villas of the El Conquistor in Puerto Rico.
They are also allegedly used forged credit cards to rent such luxury cars such as Lamborghinis and Porsches and, in one case, a private jet to take them from New York to Florida.
Kelly said ID theft rings are “getting more and more sophisticated” as the years go on.
“We’re seeing thieves on the cutting edge,” said Kelly. “The schemes and imagination are mind-boggling.”