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Sophisticated Queens-based ID theft ring busted

Oct 17, 2011 Karen Umpierre

An identity theft enterprise that had been in operation since May 2010 was recently put to an end when New York police busted an 111-person outfit based out of Queens, the New York Post reports. The identity theft ring spread across the globe, from China to Europe to the Middle East, resulting in approximately $13 million worth of fraudulent purchases. The accused were charged with hundreds of theft-related crimes. According to Queens district attorney Richard Brown, the fraud case was the largest and most sophisticated he's seen in two decades. Members of the ring included at least three bank workers, as well as retail and restaurant employees based primarily in Queens. They used skimming techniques to fraudulently obtain credit card account numbers from customers and subsequently used the data to forge new cards and IDs. The leaders of the ring would then hand the cards down to a team of "shoppers," who were sent on "shopping expeditions" across the country to purchases items such as designer handbags, video game consoles and jewelry. The thieves hid in plain sight and weren't shy about displaying the lavish purchases they made. "These thieves even posted pictures of themselves on social network at sites of high-end hotels and rented cars in high-end villas," police commissioner Ray Kelly told the news source. Among the items stolen were more than $95,000 worth of cargo from John F. Kennedy Airport and $850,000 worth of computer equipment from the Citigroup Building in Long Island City. The "shoppers" would stay at five-star hotels, rent luxury automobiles and private jets and purchase "tens of thousands" of dollars worth of high-end electronics and jewelery with the stolen cards, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown explained to the news source. "(The scammers) victimized thousands of Americans, including innocent New Yorkers," Kelly added. "They produced reams of fake credit cards. They weren't holdups at gunpoint, but the impact on victims was the same. They were robbed." Deputy inspector Gregory Antonsen of the NYPD's organized theft and ID theft task force points out that U.S. credit card companies don't install microchips into their cards to make skimming more difficult, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal reports. This increases ID theft risk for both Americans and foreign tourists.