LAS VEGAS – Nineteen people were arrested in Nevada and eight other states in a Las Vegas-based identity theft and trafficking ring that a federal prosecutor characterized as a sophisticated racketeering organization involving 50 people nationwide.
The scheme revolved around the buying and selling of pilfered debit and credit card information on an Internet site called "Carder.su," U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday in Las Vegas.
"The extent of the theft and sale of personal information uncovered by this investigation is astonishing," Bogden said in a statement dubbing the case "Operation Open Market."
Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement homeland security agents arrested five people Thursday in Las Vegas and 14 more in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia, according to the statement. Court appearance information was not made public.
Bogden said more arrests were expected as federal agents locate defendants named in three sealed indictments handed up by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas on Jan. 10 and on Tuesday.
The court documents were unavailable Friday. The statement said charges include conspiracy, racketeering and production and trafficking in false identification documents and access device cards.
Members of the ring allegedly traded counterfeit documents and stolen bank account information on organization websites.
Leaders of the organization allegedly tested and provided reviews of services including money laundering, and products like fake identification documents and stolen credit card account data lists from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the U.S.
Site users tried to protect their anonymity and prevent detection, but ICE Homeland Security Investigations official James Dinkins said the case showed that cyberspace was "not a refuge from justice."
Defendants' hometowns included: Las Vegas; Miami; Detroit; San Francisco; New York City; San Diego; Sacramento, Calif.; Morgantown, W.Va.; Newark, N.J.; Augusta, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; Springfield, Mo.; and Warren, Ohio.
Court appearance information was not immediately made public.