Eighteen people have been charged in what federal prosecutors in New Jersey called one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever uncovered by the U.S. Department of Justice, spanning 28 states and eight countries.
"The defendants are part of a massive international fraud enterprise involving thousands of false identities, fraudulent identification documents, doctored credit reports and more than $200 million in confirmed losses," FBI Special Agent James Simpson said in court records.
According to court records, the scheme involved three basic steps: The defendants allegedly created thousands of fake identities, pumped up the credit histories of those fictitious people and then racked up charges on fraudulently obtained credit cards.
"Due to the massive scope of the fraud, which involved over 25,000 fraudulent credit cards, loss calculations are ongoing and final confirmed losses may grow substantially," Simpson said.
The proceeds, authorities said, were used for luxury automobiles, electronics, spa treatments, high-end clothing and millions of dollars in gold. Authorities said the fraudsters also stockpiled large sums of cash and approximately $70,000 in cash was found in one defendant's oven.
Though the scheme targeted credit card companies, Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said customers everywhere could feel the impact.
"Through their greed and their arrogance, the individuals arrested today and their conspirators allegedly harmed not only the credit card issuers, but everyone who deals with increased interest rates and fees because of the money sucked out of the system by criminals acting in fraud rings like this one," Fishman said.
The defendants, including the alleged ringleaders, Babar Qureshi and Muhammad Shafiq, are due to make their initial court appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in a Newark federal court.