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New York police bust largest identity fraud ring

Syndicate in cahoots with waiters to steal credit card information

Gulf News

New York:  A New York-based crime ring that used forged credit cards to mainly buy and resell Apple products overseas has been busted, police said on Friday in what was described as the largest identity fraud case in US history.

Authorities said waiters and service sector workers stole customers' personal information and syndicates in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia then used the data to issue credit cards that financed an estimated $13 million (Dh47 million) shopping spree.

"The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind-boggling," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Sophisticated crimes

"These crimes are getting more sophisticated and thieves have amazing knowledge of how to use technology," Kelly said.

A total of 111 people from five criminal enterprises operating out of Queens, New York were indicted with identity theft, forgery, robbery and other crimes as part of a two-year investigation dubbed "Operation Swiper," police said.

They said crime bosses received blank credit cards from suppliers in Russia, Libya, Lebanon and China and hired "skimmers" to pose as retail workers who used electronic devices to steal the credit card data from customers.

The information was then programmed into the magnetic strips of blank credit cards, according to the indictment. In some cases, printing machines were used to forge credit cards and matching state drivers licenses.

Police said "crew leaders" oversaw the illicit shopping and that the goods purchased were mostly resold to customers overseas.