The US Secret Service and New York District Attorney arrested 27 people alleged to have operated a major cybercrime ring that involved buying Apple products with counterfeit credit cards and reselling them at below retail cost.
The alleged fraud began in 2008 when the group, S3, bought names and credit card numbers from online data traffickers, which they stored in shared email accounts, "allowing several defendants to begin creating counterfeit credit cards," according to court filings.
"The counterfeit credit cards were used to purchase goods for S3's own use, or to resell for profit," the New York County District Attorney's office said.
The group allegedly recruited shoppers to buy the goods across a number of states in America.
"Once purchased, the goods were then sold for cash at below retail cost to several different individuals in Brooklyn acting as "fences." In turn, the fences would then resell the illegally obtained goods at a profit," the District Attorney's office alleged.
At one point, the group's ringleader was alleged to have directed the operation from prison, where he was being held on an unrelated charge.
And a shopper that the group recruited also allegedly split from S3 to run a similar ring, according to the District Attorney's office.
Searches conducted as part of an arrest operation yesterday netted "three firearms, ammunition, and tools needed to manufacture credit cards."
"The District Attorney's Office has also seized US$300,000 in cash and bank account holdings from the group," it said.
Investigations were continuing.
"This case demonstrates the dangers of organised computer crime," said District Attorney Vance.
"Today, we have effectively dismantled a significant criminal operation that preyed upon innocent victims around the world. By working with our partners in law enforcement, we will continue to use all available tools to root out cybercrime in New York City and beyond."