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Manhattan business indicted for ID theft
Published: 2007-11-09

Seventeen people and one Manhattan corporation were indicted this week on charges related to trafficking in stolen credit-card numbers, identity theft and cybercrime, according to the District Attorney's Office for the County of New York.

The 173-charge indictment stems from a two-year investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Identity Theft Unit and the U.S. Secret Service of a ring of identity thieves known as the Western Express Cybercrime Group, the statement said. The company, known as Western Express International, allegedly provided financial services to other members of the group in order to conceal the source and destination of money made through credit-card and other types of fraud.

"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," the District Attorney's Office said in the statement.

The investigation found that Western Express allegedly handled more than $35 million through numerous bank accounts. The District Attorney's Office broke down the source of the money: Nearly $4 million came though illegal check cashing; about $20 million came in through e-gold currency accounts; and, another $15 million arrived as WebMoney digital currency. Authorities have linked Western Express to about $4 million in credit-card fraud, the District Attorney's Office stated.

U.S. law enforcement is increasingly focusing on finding and prosecuting credit-card fraudsters and identity thieves, a focus that has only gotten more intense since retail giant TJX Companies' lax security resulted in more than 94 million credit- and debit-card accounts being stolen. In September, the U.S. Secret Service announced that former security consultant, Max Ray Butler, had been arrested on charges of running an identity-theft ring. A recent survey of U.S. Secret Service cases found that the average loss claimed in each case amounted to about $31,000.

Members of the Western Express group ran two carder Web sites, DengiForum.com and PayCard2000.com, the District Attorney's Office said.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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