According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, beginning in June 2008 the defendants, who called themselves "S3," obtained personal identifying information, such as the names and credit card account numbers, of identity theft victims.
This information was purchased from online data traffickers via Web-based portals, and the purchasers stored the stolen credit card information in shared email accounts, allowing several defendants to begin creating counterfeit credit cards, the documents said.
The defendants then recruited individuals to act as "shoppers," who entered stores armed with these manufactured cards containing the shoppers' real names paired with stolen account information, according to the district attorney's office. The counterfeit credit cards were used to purchase goods for S3's own use or to resell for profit.
According to the court documents, the ringleader, Shaheed Bilal, was the leader of the first "and original" conspiracy. In May 2010, nearly two years after the ring began operating, Bilal was being held at Rikers Island on an unrelated charge.
Information obtained by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office revealed that he was directing the operation of S3 from inside jail by having his girlfriend, Ophela Alleyne, manage the day-to-day operations. Following his release from jail in December 2010, investigators identified that he was using a new email account, [email protected], to purchase, receive, and share stolen credit card data.
According to court documents, a shopper in Bilal's operation, Anthony Harper, broke off from Bilal's group to form his own ring, which ran in a similar fashion. The crimes that this ring is charged with committing constitute a second conspiracy, and is charged in a second, separate indictment.
Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.