As police commissioner Ray Kelly said after the bust of an international identity theft ring in October in which more than 100 people were suspected to be involved: “The schemes and the imagination that is developing these days are really mind-boggling.” That global scam, in which U.S.-based gangs were skimming credit cards and buying high-end computer equipment, came to light following a two year investigation—”Operation Swiper.” So we were momentarily confused when we saw an indictment for an identity fraud ring involving dozens of people. Perhaps it was the same case?
It was unclear based on the details released, so Betabeat called the Attorney’s office to ask. Were these identity theft rings the same? Nope, it turns out. New York City has just been experiencing an insane uptick in cybercrime rings, especially those involving identity theft.
The DA’s office has been slinging indictments left and right: there have been at least four indictments of criminals involved in identity theft rings in New York City in which the case involved a conspiracy of dozens of defendants since Operation Swiper came to a head just over two months ago.
Most recently, six tellers at three branches of Chase bank are among the 55 indicted Friday in a sophisticated identity theft conspiracy that the NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney’s office have been investigating for a year.
The conspiracy involved corrupt insiders at Chase as well as a non-profit Jewish association, a high-end car dealership, and a real estate management company who assisted in stealing identifying information of more than 200 customers, according to the office of District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The information was used to extract money from the customers as well as $2 million from financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase Bank, TD Bank, Citibank, Discover, and American Express.. Schemes included counterfeiting checks and using credit cards to buy luxury goods which were resold on the black market. Many of the customers were repeatedly victimized, says the DA.
Tellers at Chase used customer information to open new credit cards or change customers’ addresses in order to take over existing credit and debit cards, the case alleges. Other conspirators held legitimate bank accounts which were used to launder money and lifted identifying information from donors to the United Jewish Appeal-Federation, customers of the Open Road-Audi of Brooklyn and clients of AKAM Associates Inc.
“No organization or individual is immune to the threat of cybercrime,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who has said cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing types of crime; a spokesperson for the DA said the office gets between 200 and 300 new cybercrime cases a month. “From ATM skimmers, to waiters stealing credit card info, to the exploitation of systemic weaknesses in bank systems, we are attacking cybercrime and identity theft head on. [This] indictment reveals another tool of organized identity thieves—insiders who betray their employers and prey on clients.”
Meanwhile, a teller at a Chinatown Chase bank was indicted on Dec. 9 for stealing $243,000 and heading to Atlantic City, leaving behind a note apologizing to his boss. Is Chase not paying these guys enough?