Friday, March 16, 2012 | 4:56 p.m.
Federal authorities have arrested 19 people, alleging they bought, sold and shared stolen personal and financial information online as part of a transnational organization that operated primarily out of Las Vegas.
Authorities arrested people in nine states over the past two days as part of “Operation Open Market,” according to the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office. Those arrested, said Daniel Bogden, U.S. Attorney for Nevada, engaged in identity theft and counterfeit credit-card trafficking.
“The extent of the theft and sale of personal and financial information uncovered by this investigation is astonishing,” Bogden said in a statement. “Electronic mediums have made it much easier for persons and groups to sell and trade stolen information and fraudulent documents nationally and internationally. We are working vigilantly with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute the persons who commit these types of crimes.”
The U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested Michael Lofton, 34, David Ray Camez, 20, Duvaughn Butler, 37, Thomas Lamb, 47, and Jonathan Vergnetti, 40, Thursday in Las Vegas.
Another 14 people were arrested in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said those arrested were charged in one of three separate indictments. Charges against them include racketeering, conspiracy, the production and trafficking in false identification documents and access device cards.
Authorities say in all 50 people have been charged but their names remain sealed because they have not all been arrested.
The operation worked online, encouraging members to sell counterfeit documents and stolen bank account information through its websites, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Available for purchase were money-laundering services, fraudulent identification documents, stolen credit card account data or “dumps,” stolen PayPal accounts, and counterfeit plastic and counterfeit holograms used for producing counterfeit credit cards, authorities said.