Eighteen people have been charged in a multi-million dollar, international credit card fraud. The US Department of Justice claims it is one of the largest ever schemes to be prosecuted.
A $200 million (147 million euro) scheme was a "sprawling criminal enterprise that stretched across dozens of states and numerous countries," the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported Tuesday. Countries involved included Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Romania, China and Japan.
FBI and US Postal Inspection Service officials searched 13 locations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Each defendant is charged with one count of bank fraud. Authorities said many of the defendants had family ties, including a father and son.
The defendants allegedly created more than 7,000 identities to obtain about 25,000 credit cards and doctored credit reports to raise the spending limits on the cards.
"The higher the fraudulent credit score, the larger the loans that the defendants could obtain," the FBI said. "They would then borrow or spend as much as they could and not repay the debts."
The defendants used the proceeds to buy luxury cars, electronics, spa treatments, expensive clothing and millions of dollars in gold.
Police also found 70,000 dollars in the oven of one defendant.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison and a million dollars in fines.
jm/dr (AP, dpa)