International Fraud Ring Nabbed In'Operation Firewall'

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WASHINGTON - (11/21/05) -- Six leaders of an internationaloperation that trafficked in stolen credit card information andidentities pleaded guilty in federal court to a variety of felonycharges last week as a result of one of the biggest onlineundercover operations ever. The group, and as many as two dozenaccomplices in and outside the U.S., operated the Shadowcrew.comwebsite, a one-stop online marketplace that trafficked in at least1.7 million stolen credit union and bank cards and caused more than$4 million in losses to dozens of credit unions and banks, themajor card companies, like MasterCard, Visa and American Express,and thousands of individuals, according to the U.S. Secret Service,which headed the multi-national law enforcement effort. So far atleast 28 individuals connected with the ring have been arrestedunder 'Operation Firewall,' the first undercover investigation everin the U.S. in which law enforcement agencies were authorized by afederal judge to take over and operate a website in order tocollect evidence of criminal activity. "We were actually able totake over and run the website for awhile," said Eric Zahrens, aspokesman for the Secret Service. The group engaged in numerousonline fraud schemes, including the theft of personal informationfrom online data processors; the manufacture of counterfeit credit,prepaid gift, and debit/ATM cards; identity theft; and themanufacture of false drivers' licenses and other forms ofidentification, according to Zahrens. "This was a prettysophisticated criminal operation; it was run like a business," hetold The Credit Union Journal. Between August 2002 and lastNovember, drew as many as 4,000 visitors worldwidewho traded illicit information and advertised their wares andskills under aliases like 'black ops,' 'knight rider,' 'dirtyharry,' and 'kingpin.'

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