On March 6th, Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown announced a series of indictments against a major counterfeiting ring. Although based in New York City, the group was operating nationwide. The ring was obtained skimmed card information from hackers in China. Subsequent news reports have stated that skimmed information was obtained from hackers in the Ukraine, also.
From the press release:
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, today announced that a forged credit card and identity theft ring based in Queens County and with roots in the Far East has been successfully dismantled following the indictment this week of thirty-eight individuals. The ring was allegedly responsible for stealing the personal credit information of scores of American consumers and costing these individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than $1 million in losses over the past year.
Counterfeit identification documents to match the counterfeit financial devices were being produced, also.
DA Brown explains why this is of greater concern than mere financial crime:
Many of the defendants charged today 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 consumers. 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 commercial aircraft. In the hands of terrorists such documents could have easily undermined the efforts of homeland security and other law enforcement officials intent on keeping our borders and citizens safe.
Given that the scope of this crime potentially crosses three continents, it probably demonstrates different organized crime groups are working together. The potential these items might be sold to people with twisted political and or religious motives isn’t too far a stretch.
It has been reported that Al Qaeda training manuals teach their minions to use credit card fraud as a means of financing their activities.
I doubt if most of these criminals could care less, who they are selling them to. Even if they did, the full intent of the purchaser might not be readily apparent.
Suad Leija — who has been providing information on a major counterfeiting cartel to the government — says that this was the reason she turned on her family members running the cartel.
This latest example shows that despite a lot of focus on security to prevent terrorist attacks, counterfeit documents are a clear threat to all of us.
Prior to Suad turning against her family, her husband says he tried to get the cartel to let the government use their database as a tool to identify potential terrorists, who might have already crossed our border.
I’m sad to report that the database was never accessed and that the criminal case against the cartel is facing some serious challenges at the present time.
This series of indictments also shows how the Internet is being used to fence a lot of stolen merchandise. Normally, we hear about it happening on auction sites, such as eBay or Craigslist; however in this instance this group had an e-commerce website of their own. This website, Easttrades.com, is still up and running at the time I am writing this.
I decided to run the domain through “Whois” and itâ€™s registered right here in the United States.
Maybe itâ€™s just me, but it appears that we need to take the counterfeiting problem a little more seriously. They appear to be easy to produce and are available to too many people.
They are a gateway for criminals, or worse to commit all sorts of illegal activity. I would love to ask the political candidates running in the current election what they think about this problem.
Unfortunately, my guess is that no one is going to ask them and that this is an issue they would rather not talk about.
Queens District Attorney press release on this, here.