Massive Cyber Crime Bust

Cory Kincaid
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a huge international crackdown on cyber crime that began seven weeks ago, law enforcement arrested 125 suspects allegedly involved in Internet-related crimes ranging from identity theft, email scams, trademark violations, and computer hacking, to fraud and the distribution of stolen goods, the U.S. Department of Justice reported.

The global span of the arrests involved cyber criminals from as far as Ghana and Lithuania and required the work of 34 nationwide U.S. Attorneys' offices to bring the bust to fruition.

The widespread arraignment of suspects required a coordinated effort from the Justice Department, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, postal inspectors, the Bureau of Immigration, and international state authorities.

Nicknamed Operation Cyber Sweep, more than 90 search and seizure warrants were executed as part of the operation and prosecutors have obtained 70 indictments so far.

Crimes that have been prosecuted involve hijacked bank and credit card information, counterfeit sports and celebrity memorabilia, and fake emails representing banking and loan organizations like Citibank and Fannie Mae.

Many of the crimes originated internationally and focused on U.S. consumers as primary targets.

Authorities involved in the bust estimate that the damages resulting from the suspects' crimes are valued at around $100 million. More than 125,000 victims have so far stepped forward.

The Justice Department initiated a similar mass cyber crackdown earlier this year that yielded 135 suspects.

"It's the largest, most successful operation to date," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a press conference today. "Online criminals assume they can conduct their schemes with impunity. Operation Cyber Sweep is proving them wrong, by piercing the criminals' cloak of anonymity and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law."