By Emily Flitter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eleven people in the United States, the UK and Vietnam have been arrested and accused of running a $200 million worldwide credit card fraud ring, U.S. and UK law enforcement officials said on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said they had filed charges against a 23-year-old man from Vietnam.
They said in a statement that authorities in Vietnam had arrested Duy Hai Truong on May 29 in an effort to break up a ring he is accused of running with co-conspirators, who were not named in the statement.
"One of the world's major facilitation networks for online card fraud has been dismantled by this operation, and those engaged in this type of crime should know that they are neither anonymous, nor beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies," Andy Archibald, interim deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit, said in a statement on the British government's Serious Organized Crime Agency website. (http://www.soca.gov.uk/news/552-eleven-arrests-as-global-investigation-dismantles-criminal-web-forum)
The arrests were coordinated by the three countries, the statement said.
The arrests come as law enforcement officials around the world are cracking down on Internet-related heists. Two weeks ago, authorities raided Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rica-based company that provided a virtual currency system used frequently by criminals to move money around the world without using the traditional banking system.
Earlier last month, authorities arrested seven people involved in a $45 million heist in which hackers removed limits on prepaid debit cards and used ATM withdrawals to drain cash from two Middle Eastern banks.
"It's rare that you find actual human beings behind these things," said Mark Rasch, a former cyber crimes prosecutor and now a lawyer in private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. "Usually you can tie them to organizations or hacker handles, but it's harder to find individual people."
Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, said the charges were filed in New Jersey's federal court because some of the victims of the scheme are residents of the state.
Prosecutors claim Truong and accomplices stole information related to more than a million credit cards and resold it to criminal customers through the websites www.matteuter.biz and www.mattfeuter.com, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey.
According to the complaint, Truong hacked into websites that sold goods and services over the Internet and collected personal credit card information from the sites' customers. "The victims' credit cards incurred, cumulatively, more than $200 million in fraudulent charges," the complaint said. The scheme began in 2007.
"Like many 'carder' cases, this is an international conspiracy," Rasch said, adding that a recently passed computer crime law in Vietnam had made it possible for Vietnamese authorities to participate in the multinational sting.
Although Truong has been charged in the United States, he does not have a U.S.-based lawyer because he is being held in Vietnam, Carmichael said.
(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Richard Chang and Dan Grebler)