FBI Assistant Director Keith Bolcar shows computer documents at a news conference announcing the breakup of an ID theft ring
In a press conference at its Los Angeles headquarters, the FBI announced "Operation Phish Phry," the bust-up of an international identity theft ring. The operation led to 33 arrests across the U.S. and 47 in Egypt, cybercriminals connected with a sophisticated identity theft ring.
Wednesday's arrests were the culmination of a two-year probe involving the joint work of the FBI, the US Attorney General's office, the Secret Service, local police forces and other members of the Electronic Crimes Task Force in Los Angeles. FBI officials described Operation Phish Phry as "the largest cybercrime investigation to date in the United States."
The 51-count US indictment accuses the defendants of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. Various individual defendants are charged with aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit computer fraud. The defendants are accused of running a "phishing" scheme, using computer intrusion and fraud to obtain personal information allowing them to withdraw money from bank accounts.
Therawstory reports that even the FBI is becoming troubled by the technical skills of today's cybercriminals. "The sophistication with which Phish Phry defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in the way identity theft is now committed," FBI Los Angeles acting assistant director Keith Bolcar said.
"Criminally savvy groups recruit here and abroad to pool tactics and skills necessary to commit organized theft facilitated by the computer, including hacking, fraud and identity theft, with a common greed and shared willingness to victimize Americans."
Victims may have lost a combined couple million dollars, according to FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.