Investigators traced the identity theft ring back to China, where police believe hackers were based when they stole the account numbers of tens of thousands of American consumers, according to the Queens County District Attorney's Office on Thursday. Many of the 39 people who were arrested lived in Queens or Brooklyn and were Chinese in origin.
Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for District Attorney Richard Brown, told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday that the individuals charged were part of a gang responsible for using equipment to manufacture counterfeit credit cards and driver's licenses.
They then sent out teams of "shoppers" to visit stores in New York, Texas and Arizona, authorities said. These people were encouraged to purchase expensive goods, such as TVs, laptops, gaming consoles and jewelry. The items were then resold, at a small discount, over the internet.
"They were getting raw materials [the data] from the supplier in China," Ryan said. "The quality of their products [fake cards and licenses] were exceptional."
The 16-month investigation into the ring, dubbed "The House of Cards" by police, discovered that the group was using credit and debit card numbers, stolen from a major retailer, Ryan said. He would not identify the merchant that was breached.
"Many of the defendants charged (Thursday) are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics, handbags and jewelry with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting customers," Brown said in a news release. "Particularly disturbing is the fact that, in a number of cases, the defendants are charged with using bogus documents to purchase airline tickets and then using those documents as identification to board aircraft."
Those arrested face up to 25 years in prison.