(NEW YORK) — 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.
Prosecutors said the scheme started with small purchases over an extended period of time to build the credit scores of the false identities. Once good credit history was established, court records say the defendants “ran up large loans” that were never repaid.
The defendants, including the alleged ring leaders, Babar Qureshi and Muhammad Shafiq, are due to make their initial court appearances Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in a Newark, N.J., federal court.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Heather Long, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Pamela Brown, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN