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More than 100 suspects were charged Friday in what the Queens district attorney is calling the largest identity theft takedown in U.S. history.
The 111 members of five organized, forged credit card rings have been charged on several criminal counts, including identity theft and criminal possession of a forged instrument, following a two-year massive investigation that was conducted by the DA’s office and the NYPD.
Although the rings operated out of Queens, they cost financial institutions $13 million in losses by stealing thousands of pieces of credit card information from victims around the globe, according to DA Richard Brown.
“Many of the defendants charged today are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and expensive handbags and jewelry with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers,” he said in a statement.
Of the 111 who were indicted, 88 have been arrested while the remaining 25 are on the loose, the DA said.
“Operation Swiper” began in October 2009 when the authorities began surveillance on the groups — the Khan Box Enterprise, the Ali Enterprise, the Anthony Martin Enterprise, the Rocky Enterprise and the Amar Enterprise, according to the DA.
The suspected bosses — Ali Khweiss, Anthony Martin, Sanjay “Rocky” Deowsarran and Amar Singh — obtained credit card information from skimmers who worked at restaurants, stores and online retailers in America, China, Russia and Lebanon and sent them to a “manufacturer” who would re-encode the information onto blank credit cards, Brown said.
The bosses would then allegedly give the cards to associates who would travel to malls and shopping centers across the United States, including Miami and Puerto Rico, and buy lavish goods for either their own enjoyment or for fencing, according to the DA.
In some cases, the bosses would allegedly hire an impersonator to pose as the cardholder and call the financial institutions to confirm the massive purchases and avoid the real cardholder from finding out, Brown said.
A search warrant of 15 locations operated by the rings in Queens and Long Island yielded $650,000 in cash; seven handguns, two of which were defaced; a box truck full of electronics, computers, shoes and watches, skimmers, card readers, embossers and various blank credit cards and fake IDs, according to the DA.
Some of the defendants who were caught were also involved in other crimes, too, Brown said.
Derrick Singh, Parisam Itwaru, Tahidul Parvez and two other unapprehended individuals have been charged in the theft of more than $95,000 of cargo last year, said Brown.
Imran Khan, Travis Lootawan, Kendall McLean and an unapprehended individual were charged with attempting to rob a Forest Hills bank in July, but their planning was caught by investigators who were watching them as part of “Operation Swiper”, Brown said.
Jonathan Ortiz, Wilfred Rodriguez, Travis Hassang, Angel Quinones and two other unapprehended suspects were charged with stealing nearly $850,000 in computer equipment from the Citi Building in Long Island City, the DA said. Quinones worked there as a security guard and Ortiz’s mother was also charged with hindering the investigation by allegedly logging into his Facebook account and creating an alibi, according to Brown.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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