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Friday, October 07, 2011, 08:33 pm PT (11:33 pm ET)

Police break up New York fraud ring targeting Apple products

New York police announced on Friday that they have busted a massive crime network that used stolen credit card information to purchase Apple products and resell them overseas.

Reuters reports that 86 people are in custody, with a total of 111 people indicted, for participating in a New York-based international crime ring that has been described as "the largest identity fraud case in U.S. history." The complex network utilized a process of stealing credit cards numbers, printing counterfeit cards, purchasing Apple products or other high-value goods and then reselling them abroad.

"The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind-boggling," the report noted New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as saying at a press conference.

Officials identified more than 100 individuals allegedly connected to five criminal enterprises run out of Queens, New York during a two-year investigation codenamed "Operation Swiper."

According to the report, overseers received blank credit cards supplied by outfits in Russia, Libya Lebanon and China, then used "skimmers" who worked retail jobs in order to mine credit card numbers and personal information using special devices. The stolen credit card data could then be programmed onto the magnetic strips of the blank cards, while fake identification could be made to match the cards.

"Crew leaders" would then organize purchasing around the U.S., focusing specifically on Apple products. Finally, the goods were sent overseas to be resold.

"This is primarily an Apple case," said New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Gregory Antonsen. "Apple is a big ticket item and a very easy sell."

The report said "tens of thousands of dollars of Apple products, $850,000 worth of stolen computer equipment, $650,000 in cash, handguns and a truck full of electronics, designer shoes, watches, identity theft equipment and other goods" had been seized by police. Officials estimate that the crime ring stole over $13 million over a 16-month period.

The robust resale value of Apple's products, as well as, in some cases, their mobility, has for years made the company a prime target for theft and fraud. For instance, the company's retail stores have repeatedly fallen victim to smash-and-grab burglaries.

In addition to battling fraudulent purchases, Apple also has to combat counterfeit products. Chinese police recently arrested five suspects believed to be part of a sophisticated iPhone counterfeiting gang. The iPhone maker has also taken legal action against stores in New York that were selling counterfeit products and accessories.