It appears that the Manhattan District Attorney and the United States Secret Service have dealt a significant blow to a Internet crime ring dealing in stolen credit card information, cybercrime and identity theft.

The New York/New Jersey Electronic Crimes Task Force and a host of other agencies assisted in the investigation, also.

From the DANY press release:

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced today the indictment of seventeen individuals and one corporation on charges related to global trafficking in stolen credit card numbers, cybercrime, and identity theft. Three defendants will be arraigned today.

The three defendants to be arraigned today are VADIM VASSILENKO, YELENA BARYSHEVA and JOHN WASHINGTON.

Six other defendants – TETYANA GOLOBORODKO, DOUGLAS LATTA, ANGELA PEREZ, KOSTAS KAPSIS, LYNDON ROACH and KEITH CUMMINGS – were arraigned earlier. Two defendants, EDUARD KHOLSTININ and OLEKSIY YARNE, are in custody in other states on unrelated charges and six other defendants are still being sought.

Also indicted is WESTERN EXPRESS INTERNATIONAL, INC., a corporation formerly headquartered in mid-town Manhattan at 555 Eighth Avenue. Western Express’s corporate officers are VADIM VASSILENKO and YELENA BARYSHEVA. TETYANA GOLOBORODKO was the manager of WESTERN EXPRESS.

Although not specified in the press release, most of the surnames of the indivduals involved appear to be Russian, or Eastern European. Most experts concede that Russian and Eastern European organized crime organizations are the major players in the stolen payment card information business.

The activity involved in this appears to highly organized, and technically sophisticated:

The Western Express Cybercrime Group carried out its criminal operations through a structure consisting of “vendors,” “buyers,” “cybercrime services providers,” and “money movers.” The “vendors” were individuals who sold large volumes of stolen credit card numbers and other personal identifying information through the internet. The “buyers” used the internet to purchase that information from the “vendors,” for the purpose of committing additional crimes such as larceny and identity theft. The “cybercrime services providers” promoted, facilitated, and aided in the purchase, sale and fraudulent use of stolen credit card numbers and other personal identifying information through various computer services that they provided to the “vendors” and the “buyers.” Finally, other defendants operated as “money movers.” Those defendants provided financial services and conducted financial transactions for other participants in the criminal enterprise in order to move funds and launder the proceeds of criminal activity. The “money movers” relied on anonymous digital currencies, such as Egold and Webmoney, to buy, sell, and launder the proceeds of criminal transactions, and conducted their business online, using websites, instant messaging, and email. Some of the defendants charged in the indictment played more than one role.

Those involved in the Western Express Cybercrime Group interacted and communicated through “carding” websites – that is, websites devoted to trafficking in stolen credit card and personal identifying information. 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 entire operation was set up under a business in Manhattan known as Western Express. This business appears to have been nothing more than a sophisticated money laundering operation:

The corporate defendant WESTERN EXPRESS INTERNATIONAL, INC., through its managerial agents VADIM VASSILENKO, YELENA BARYSHEVA, and TETYANA GOLOBORODKO, provided financial services designed to conceal the source and destination of funds earned through the trafficking of stolen credit card numbers and other personal identifying information, as well as the identity of individuals engaged in such transactions. They used conventional banks and money transmitters to move large sums of money for their clients, thus permitting their clients to remain anonymous and insulated from reporting requirements. They also provided information and assistance to other members of the group through the WESTERN EXPRESS websites Dengiforum.com and Paycard2000.com.

Apparently, this business had about $35 million flow through it’s various accounts and is responsible for a known $4 million in credit card fraud. The investigation also revealed that they trafficked over 95,000 credit card numbers.

The press release stipulates that this is only what has been identifed thus far.

In February 2006, Western Express was also indicted for running an illegal check cashing/wire transfer service. Through it’s various websites it offered one-stop financial services enabling Eastern European customers to do business in the United States and vice-versa.

This business was also a front for laundering the proceeds of a lot of fraud activity:

The investigation has revealed that their clients were involved in widespread illegality beyond the mere receipt of funds under fictitious aliases and addresses, including a variety of cyber-crimes such as “re-shipping” schemes and “phishing,” “spoofing” and spamming.

DANY press release, here.

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