- The ring is the largest of its kind ever discovered in the United States, the DA says
- Credit information came from thousands of American and European consumers, he says
- The suspects went on "nationwide shopping sprees," the DA's office says
A New York City crackdown on suspects allegedly involved in forged credit cards and identity theft led authorities to a $13 million global crime ring, Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown said Friday.
He called it the largest and perhaps most sophisticated ring of its kind in U.S. history.
Authorities hired translators to eavesdrop on a series of conversations in Arabic, Russian and Mandarin that led police to 86 suspects in a series of raids that started Tuesday, Brown said.
He said the defendants, who were charged with stealing the personal credit information of thousands of unwitting American and European consumers, are allegedly members of five organized crime rings with ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Twenty-five others remain at large, Brown added.
All of the 111 suspects were indicted in the theft case, while nearly two dozen of them were also charged in six indictments related to burglaries and robberies.
Several suspects are believed to have engaged in "nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets, and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and expensive handbags and jewelry with forged credit cards," the Queens County District Attorney's Office reported.
The two-year probe, dubbed Operation Swiper, involved physical surveillance, intelligence gathering and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping on dozens of telephones in which thousands of conversations were intercepted, it said.