Several South Asian jewelry stores in the heart of Jersey City’s Newark Avenue named India Square, and often referred to as Little India or Little Bombay, were shut down Feb. 5, and 18 people charged in what federal authorities describe as one of the largest ever $200 million international credit card, identity theft and money laundering fraud schemes ever. The investigation that produced the Feb. 5 arrests involved cyber crime investigators from the FBI and had been ongoing for more than 18 months. It previously resulted in the arrest of four other individuals and the seizure of more than $2 million in gold from a jewelry store in Jersey City, a release from U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman’s office said. Fishman announced the unsealing of the indictment at a news conference in Newark Feb. 5, the Jersey Journal reported.
The names of the defendants listed in the complaint, a copy of which was provided to Desi Talk, are Babar Qureshi, Muhammad Shafiq, Ijaz Butt, Qaiser Khan, Shafique Ahmed, Habib Chaudhry, Raghbir Singh, Muhammad Naveed, Khawaja Ikram, Nasreen Akhtar, Mohammad Khan, Azhar Ikram, Shahid Raza aka Abid Mian, Vernina Adams, Sat Verma, Vijay Verma, Tarsem Lal, and Vinod Dadlani.
The complaint says Sat Verma, Vijay Verma, Lal and Dadlani ran the jewelry stores where millions of dollars in fraudulent credit card transactions were processed.
The jewelry stores, Ashu Jewels, Tanishq Jewels and Raja Jewels, were shut down because of their alleged involvement in the crime, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced at the press conference. The allegedly complicit businesses would allow the defendants to conduct sham transactions on the fraudulent credit cards and would then receive the proceeds from the credit card companies and split them with the other conspirators, the complaint alleges.
The stores maintained multiple credit card merchant processing accounts at the same time, the release says. By operating dozens of accounts, these businesses furthered the conspiracy by allowing more fraudulent transactions to be processed before the merchant processors shut down the account. The proceeds from these merchant terminals were deposited into various business checking accounts, and the money was paid out to the owners of the complicit businesses, along with other defendants and conspirators, according to the press release.
The defendants also wired millions of dollars overseas, authorities allege, to Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Romania, China and Japan. Due to the massive scope of the conspiracy, which involved over 25,000 fraudulent credit cards, loss calculations are ongoing, authorities said. Final figures may grow beyond the present confirmed losses of more than $200 million.
“Through their greed and their arrogance, the individuals arrested today and their conspirators allegedly harmed not only the credit card issuers, but everyone who deals with increased interest rates and fees because of the money sucked out of the system by criminals acting in fraud rings like this one,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman is quoted saying in a release.
When asked if the ring was headquartered in Jersey City, Fishman told media "I think that's fair to say,” the Jersey Journal reported.
On Feb. 5 morning hundreds of law enforcement officers from the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service fanned out in 4 states to arrest 13 defendants and searched 13 locations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
According to documents filed in this case, the scheme involved an elaborate process and set up by which false identities were created, documents made, lines of credit created and enormous amounts of money spent in order to establish the credit and increase spending limits. The defendants allegedly maintained 1,800 “drop addresses,” including houses, apartments, and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses of the false identities and created several sham companies to process the fraudulent transactions.