Federal agents say they have uncovered an international identity theft ring that has scammed thousands of victims, including actress Linda Vandervoort, who played Supergirl in the Smallville television series, The Washington Post is reporting.
FBI agents arrested two people in Georgia and two other people in Virginia, in a sophisticated scheme that involves identity theft and creating bogus shell companies that steal high-balance credit cards and use them for financial transactions.
Investigators have been tracking the identity theft ring for 2 years. Despite a break in the case, authorities believe that they have only scratched the surface, believing that the massive conspiracy, known as the “Deutche Group,” is a sprawling network that includes the United States, India, Britain, and Thailand.
The scammers are notorious for advertising jobs on Craiglist and stealing the personal information that applicants provide. They also set up counterfeit online companies, offering discount deals for airfare and travel, using stolen credit card information to book itineraries that leave travelers stranded when credit card companies challenge the charges. The scammers have created fake companies like flycheap.com and triparenaonline, where unwitting customers have paid for travel services.
A few times, a traveler would fly without incident; but, most often travelers were stranded because their tickets were cancelled after the fraud was discovered by credit card companies. The “Deutche Group” would send digitally enhanced images of passports and stolen credit cards to back up their expenses, hoping to get away with it.
It was one of these passports that led to a big break in the case. One of the passports used a random image of the TV series actress Laura Vandervoort. An FBI agent who was a fan of the television series Smallville recognized her photo.
— Calgary Sun (@calgarysun) June 18, 2016
Further investigations revealed that the scammers had set up their own bank in India in an attempt to join the Visa network and veto their own falsified transactions.
Amit Chaudhry, 44, who was arrested Thursday, is allegedly the mastermind behind operations in the U.S. Authorities are saying that his siblings and other relatives were the ones responsible for operations in India, which included creating shell operations and stealing personal information.
Presently, prosecutors have unearthed 353 companies connected to the grand scheme and have mentioned that a New York resident was the first person to draw their attention to the group after noticing unsolicited charges on her credit card in 2012.
Chaudhry was in court and claimed he was innocent against all the charges brought before him.
“I never transferred money and I don’t have significant ties to India,” he said. An affidavit filed in a Virginia federal court, however, linked five aliases to Chaudhry, including “Sachin Sinha” and “John King.”
Jacqueline Green, 40, was also arrested and charged with wire fraud. Apparently, Green had met Chaudhry as a government contractor with an information technology company, ActioNet. Chaudhry was running his own IT training company, The Knowledge Center, at the time. Prosecutors allege that Green would over-bill her company whenever Chaudhry provided his services for the company.
If the pair are found guilty, they could face over 20 years in prison and be asked to pay forfeiture fines.
Tanav Jha and Sudhakar Jha, the other defendants, were arrested in Georgia and they are due in court next week; other perpetrators, according to authorities, have fled the country.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in every 14 Americans was a victim of identity theft in 2014. This came to over 17.6 million people, which makes up 7 percent of the residents in the U.S. Most of the victims found out about the theft after they were contacted by their financial institutions over the “unauthorized use” of their bank accounts, according to The Daily Mail.
[Image via Shutterstock/wk1003mike]