Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Officials arrest 23 in Las Vegas ID theft scheme

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- State and federal authorities said Tuesday they arrested nearly two dozen people, many with ties to Eastern Europe, in a credit card fraud and identity theft scheme that cost Las Vegas businesses and consumers about $1.5 million.

Greg Brower, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said 13 people were arrested on federal charges Monday in southern Nevada and Los Angeles. Las Vegas police said 10 were arrested on state charges, including forgery, credit card fraud and weapons and drug possession.

The arrests were the first for a Eurasian organized crime task force based in Las Vegas. The task force was formed two years ago in response to "the influx and influence and activity of Eurasian-based gang-type criminals" in southern Nevada, Brower said.

Authorities said they were uncertain of the defendants' immigration statuses and could not name their nationalities.

In five indictments unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors describe an operation using "skimming equipment" at restaurants, smoke shops and convenience stores to obtain credit card numbers and personal identification numbers.

Cashiers involved in the scam would use the device, known as a "wedge," to scan the card and capture information in the magnetic strip. The information would then be used to create counterfeit credit cards, the indictment said.

Authorities said no businesses were implicated in the scheme. More than 1,000 credit and debit cards were compromised.

The indictments handed down last month accuse 13 people of charges including producing, using and trafficking counterfeit credit cards, identity theft and criminal forfeiture.

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