Police busted open the biggest ID theft ring in history this week with 111 arrest charges against suspects from five criminal enterprises in Queens, New York. The massive takedown was the result of a two-year investigation into a huge crime ring with ties to China, Europe and the Middle East. Police say thousands were victimized by the identity thieves.
“These weren’t holdups at gunpoint, but the impact on victims was the same,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference on Monday. “They were robbed.”
According to police authorities, the identity theft ring has been stealing credit card numbers to fuel an international crime ring since at least 2010. At least one bank and several restaurants were allegedly involved in the ID theft ring.
Reports indicate that at least three bank employees, along with retail workers and restaurant staff, would steal credit card numbers by ‘skimming’ them when a customer swiped their card for payment. Then the stolen numbers would be sold and manufactured into forged credit cards. ‘Shoppers’ would tkae the forged credit cards and buy high-end, expensive items at stores such as Apple and Macy’s. These purchases would then be resold overseas in China, Europe and the Middle East.
“The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind boggling,” said Commissioner Kelly said. “These crimes are getting more sophisticated and thieves have amazing knowledge of how to use technology.”
Prosecutors say more than $13 million was spent on items to be resold overseas. In addition, some of those involved in the ID theft ring used the forged cards to pay for hotels, private jets and luxury cars.
Several homes were searched by investigators and more than $650,000 in cash, several weapons, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in computers and electronics were seized. Charges against those arrested include enterprise corruption, theft and grand larceny. Of the 111 people charged in the case, 86 have so far been arrested and the rest are being tracked down.