New York authorities have indicted 111 people - including bank tellers - accused of participating in an identity theft scam that saw counterfeit credit cards used to steal more than $13 million.
In what Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says is the largest ID theft takedown in US history, members of five rings have been charged in 10 indictments with stealing the personal credit information of thousands of Americans and Europeans over a 16 month period.
The indictments come after an investigation, dubbed "Operation Swiper" that began in October 2009. Of the 111 defendants, 86 have been brought in by police with the remaining 25 still being sought.
According to the indictments, some credit card account numbers were stolen by staff at banks, restaurants and shops using skimming devices. Others came from unknown suppliers overseas and online.
The information was given to the criminal bosses and counterfeits were made. These were then passed on to teams of "shoppers" who were sent out on expeditions across the US to purchase high-end electronics and other merchandise - such as designer handbags, game consoles and jewellery - which either had been requested or could easily be fenced and re-sold, typically over the Internet.
The shoppers were aided by collusive store owners or employees and some bank workers who had access to cardholder information and could check it for high value targets and steal data.
Says Brown: "This is by far the largest - and certainly among the most sophisticated - identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across. 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."