Federal agents in four states - including New Jersey – arrested 13 people today for allegedly creating thousands of phony identities that were used to steal more than $200 million in merchandise and cash.

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U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman says this is one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever uncovered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The activity described in a complaint unsealed today describes a sprawling criminal enterprise that stretched across dozens of states and numerous countries. The defendants charged in the complaint allegedly fabricated identities to get credits cards, and doctored credit reports to pump up the spending and borrowing power associated with the cards. They would then borrow or spend as much as they could based on their fraudulently obtained credit history and not repay the debts.

Fishman says, “This type of fraud increases the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day. 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.”

Those charged were arrested this morning in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

The United States Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection, U.S. Secret Service, the Social Security Administration, and the FBI worked together- along with numerous financial institutions - on the case.