Accused of stealing credit card data of customers to buy products wroth over $ 13 million

In the biggest identity theft scam in the United States history, 111 people, including at least 13 of Indian origin, have been charged with stealing credit card data of thousands of customers.

Forged cards were used to buy high-end products worth over $13 million, including Apple gadgets and fancy bags from Gucci.

Among those indicted in ‘Operation Swiper' are bank tellers, store employees and restaurant workers, who allegedly skimmed customers' personal IDs.

Many of the defendants have been accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying in five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting American and European consumers.

The defendants are members of five organised forged credit card and identity theft rings based in Queens County and have ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Charged in 10 indictments, the defendants perpetrated fraud that cost financial institutions and retail businesses more than $13 million in losses over a 16-month period. The indictments charge that Imran Khan, Ali Khweiss, Anthony Martin, Sanjay Deowsarran and Amar Singh were “bosses” of criminal enterprises and received the raw material — lists of credit card account numbers and various blank credit cards.

Among the Indian-origin people charged are Vishnu Harilal, Ravindra Singh, Amar Singh, Neha Punjabi Singh, Ravi Ramroop and Kamal Sanasi.

Eighty-six of the defendants are in custody and authorities are on the look out for 25 others.

In addition, nearly 24 defendants have been variously charged in six indictments with participating in burglaries and robberies throughout Queens County.

“This is by far the largest — and certainly among the most sophisticated — identity theft/credit card fraud case that law enforcement has come across,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Fast-growing crimes

Mr. Brown said credit card fraud and identity theft are two fast-growing crimes in the U.S., afflicting millions of victims and costing billions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions.

According to the indictments, between May 2010 and September 2011 counterfeit cards were given to teams of “shoppers,” who were sent out on shopping expeditions in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles.

They bought Apple iPads, iPhones, computers, watches and fancy handbags from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolexe and Breitling.

The groups then sold the merchandise to locations in China, Europe and the Middle East.

They are also alleged to have used forged credit cards to rent such luxurious automobiles as Lamborghinis and Porsches.

The investigation involved intelligence gathering and electronic eavesdropping on dozens of different telephones in which thousands of conversations in Russian, Mandarin and Arabic were intercepted.

Mr. Brown said search warrants had been executed earlier this week at 15 locations in New York and on Long Island.

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