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On Wednesday, authorities announced that they'd broken up a credit card forgery and identity theft ring, known as "S3," that bought products from Apple stores around the country using credit card data stolen from identity theft victims. During arrest raids conducted on Tuesday, authorities said they recovered $300,000 in cash, three firearms, ammunition, and credit-card-forging equipment.
Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said 27 people have been indicted so far in the joint operation -- which is ongoing -- by his office's cybercrime and identity theft bureau and the Secret Service. Charges include grand larceny, conspiracy to commit crimes, forgery, and possessing forged items.
According to court documents, beginning in June 2008, the Brooklyn-based gang allegedly used underground forums to purchase personally identifying information, stolen by others via identity theft attacks. Purchased information included stolen credit card data, which the defendants used to create counterfeit credit cards.
Authorities have accused Shaheed Bilal (aka "Sha"), 28, of being the S3 ringleader, running operations -- even while incarcerated -- together with his girlfriend, Ophela Alleyne (aka "Philly"), 29. Authorities also allege that Bilal, after his release from jail in December 2010, began using a new email account, [email protected], "to purchase, receive, and share stolen credit card data."
According to court documents, the S3 gang -- comprising, among others, four of Bilal's brothers, who acted as managers, or underbosses -- recruited people known as "shoppers" to buy goods using the counterfeit credit cards. According to authorities, "these shoppers purchased fraudulently obtained electronic goods from Apple Stores in Manhattan and around the country, including iPods, MacBooks, iPads, and gift cards." These were sold to multiple people in Brooklyn who "fenced" the stolen goods.
Authorities have also accused Anthony Harper, aka "Ant" and "Dolla," of being a former shopper for Bilal who broke off and set up his own gang, beginning in September 2010, to run similar operations.
Authorities said that Apple was cooperating with the investigation.