NEW YORK, Nov 18 (Reuters) - State and federal authorities
announced Friday they had dismantled a 28-member identity-theft
ring that thrived on scanning high-limit credit cards from
well-heeled customers in some of New York's top steakhouses and
using the stolen numbers to purchase millions of dollars' worth
of luxury goods.
In two indictments encompassing 172 counts, authorities
detailed the scheme, in which the defendants allegedly used
high-tech "skimmers" -- hard to detect because they fit into
the palm of one's hand -- to capture customers' credit card
numbers at high-end restaurants in New York, Connecticut and
New Jersey, including Smith & Wollensky's, the Capital Grille
The numbers were then used to manufacture phony credit
cards, complete with embossed numbers and the names of the
customers whose cards were skimmed, investigators said.
An army of shoppers equipped with the cards -- and in some
cases, matching fraudulent driver's licenses -- were sent to
stores such as Jimmy Choo, Cartier and Neiman Marcus to
purchase handbags, shoes and other items, according to the
indictments. The items were resold for profit.
Search warrants executed Thursday at a storage unit in
midtown Manhattan and other locations turned up more than $1
million worth of watches and more than $1.2 million in cash,
among other items, authorities said.
The charges range from grand larceny to enterprise
corruption, New York State's equivalent of racketeering. The
alleged ringleader, Luis Damian Jacas, 41, faces more than 135
felony counts in all.
TARGETING THE 'BLACK CARD'
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who earlier this
week unsealed an 82-count indictment against three men accused
of planting skimmers on automated teller machines and using the
stolen card information to make more than $285,000 in
purchases, said the case highlights the pervasive dangers of
identity theft for consumers.
"Every day, hard-working New Yorkers find themselves the
victim of identity theft," he said at a press conference. "It
can take years for those individuals to have their credit
The 18-month investigation was conducted by the Secret
Service, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan
district attorney's office and included wiretapping phones,
monitoring email accounts, analyzing financial records, and
tailing shoppers, Vance said.
By targeting high-limit or unlimited American Express
credit cards, including the famed "black card," the ring
ensured that it could make purchases without fear it would
trigger automatic red flags with American Express, New York
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)
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