New busts in global identity theft ring

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Two members of an international crime ring, arrested in Prague and extradited to the United States last week, were arraigned Tuesday in New York.

The defendants, Viatcheslav Vasilyev, 33, and Vladimir Kramarenko, 31, were indicted on a number of charges, including enterprise corruption, grand larceny and money laundering, said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

“After their arraignment, they were immediately remanded – sent to jail without bail,” Tracy Golden, spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, told Tuesday.

Their next court date is scheduled for Oct. 21. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in jail.

Morgenthau also announced the unsealing of an indictment for three other men, one of whom is awaiting extradition from Greece. The other two named in the indictment are still at large, though thought to be hiding in Eastern Europe.

All the defendants were affiliated with the "Western Express Cybercrime Group," which authorities said was responsible for stealing $4 million by using fraudulent identities. The ring sold at least 95,000 stolen credit card numbers during a six-year period ending in 2007. That year, a Manhattan grand jury returned a 173-count indictment against 17 people accused of running the operation. Of the people arrested under that indictment, five have pleaded guilty so far, prosecutors said.

Specifically, the indictment charged that the defendants participated in an internet-based cybercriminal enterprise, the hub of which was Western Express International, a corporation in New York that coordinated and facilitated “internet payment methods to purchase stolen information and launder the criminal proceeds.”

Those involved communicated through carding websites, according to a statement from Morgenthau's office.

“They relied on the use of nicknames, false identities, anonymous instant messenger accounts, anonymous email accounts, and anonymous digital currency accounts to conceal the existence and purpose of the criminal enterprise, to avoid detection by law enforcement and regulatory agencies and to maintain their anonymity,” the statement said.

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