Federal authorities said the alleged scheme — spanning eight countries and 28 states — was one of the largest credit card fraud cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Thirteen people were in custody in the U.S. Authorities charged five others, including one who is in Pakistan and four others who were still being sought, according to Matt Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
Prosecutors said the alleged scheme was remarkably a sophisticated operation that went on for a decade.
The defendants allegedly created dozens of bogus businesses that obtained credit terminals and ran up charges, using the money to buy luxury cars, spa treatments, and millions of dollars of gold, according to the complaint. Millions of dollars were wired overseas.
Prosecutors said the defendants constructed an elaborate network of fake identities by adding fictitious people as authorized users on existing credit cards, and conspired with the owner of a Philadelphia credit repair company to obtain fake lines of credit to improve the credit score of the phony profiles.
The complaint said the defendants maintained about 1,800 “drop addresses” at houses, apartments and P.O. boxes, used as mailing addresses for the fake identities.