Criminal Justice

18 charged with stealing $200M by getting 25,000 credit cards for fake individuals

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A federal indictment unsealed in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday charges 18 people in what authorities said is one of the largest credit card frauds ever.

The defendants are accused of faking identities for thousands of individuals, establishing bank accounts in their names and obtaining tens of thousands of credit cards in the names of these fictitious individuals over a 10-year period, according to Bloomberg and Reuters.

After enhancing the fake personas’ credit by timely paying for small purchases, the defendants took out big loans against the credit cards that were never repaid, wired money overseas and purchased luxury goods and gold, according to a criminal complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. Sham credit card transactions also allegedly took place at businesses owned by a couple of the defendants.

All 18 of the defendants are in custody. They were located in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. However, some aspects of what is described as a massive conspiracy took place overseas, authorities said.

“The arrests today are the result of an investigation into a sophisticated, organized group that operated internationally and in the United States,” a FBI spokeswoman in New Jersey told Reuters.

Federal prosecutors say the scheme spread into 28 states and eight countries, ABC News reports.

“The defendants are part of a massive international fraud enterprise involving thousands of false identities, fraudulent identification documents, doctored credit reports and more than $200 million in confirmed losses,” said James Simpson, an FBI special agent, in a court filing. Losses could increase substantially as the total amount stolen through the use of over 25,000 fraudulent credit cards is tallied, he added.

A news conference is scheduled later today, after the defendants appear before a judge in federal court in Newark.

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