A Philadelphia woman was arrested today along with 12 others in what federal authorities call "one of the largest" credit card fraud schemes ever.
The U.S. Attorney's Office identified Vernina Adams, 31, of Philadelphia, as pivotal to the scam by supplying the ring with fake, pumped-up credit histories through her business, One Stop Credit Shop.
Collectively, the ring of coconspirators from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania committed frauds that stole at least $200 million, authorities allege.
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman announced the arrests today after unsealing a criminal complaint that describes a "sprawling" fraud that spanned dozens of states and numerous countries from 2011 through 2012.
All of the defendants are charged with bank fraud.
Authorities called the enterprise a "sophisticated, organized scheme" that stole hundreds of millions of dollars through the creation of 7,000 false identities.
The scope of the scam was "enormous," they said.
Adams could not be reached for comment. Several telephone numbers connected to her were either bad or incorrect.
Essentially, the enterprise worked like this, according to the complaint:
Members of the group would create false identities through a series of documents, then create a false profile for the major credit bureaus.
Next, the group would, "pump up" the credit by providing false information to the credit bureaus from fake companies. The sham companies existed only to make it appear that the fictional people had excellent credit.
Finally, members of the group would run up large loans against the false identities. The higher the credit score, the bigger the loan they could obtain. The loans were never repaid.
Authorities say Adams used her Philadelphia-based One Stop Credit Shop to post fake credit histories to the credit bureaus. Adams sold the histories, known as 'tradelines' to others in the group, prosecutors said.
In one instance, in Feb. 2011, the complaint alleges, Adams sent an e-mail to a coconspirator offering a credit profile number which would be backdated to 2009 to make it appear the fake line of credit existed for several years. That helped it enhance the credit score.
They say Adams also offered a service known as a "credit card sweep" to repair the credit of false identities that had run up loans. The service claimed the false identities were actually victims of identity theft. Authorities say she even submitted false police reports to substantiate the claims.
The group of coconspirators eventually created up to 80 sham companies, netting them millions.
One defendant, Khawaja Ikram, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., received almost $2.4 million
"This type of fraud increases the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day," Fishman, the U.S. Attorney, said in a news release.