Authorities in New York announced
on October 7 that they had busted a massive criminal enterprise involving fake credit cards, forgery, identity theft, and stolen goods.
Altogether, 111 people have been charged, 86 of them already in custody, 25 at large.
In an ironic twist of fate most of the criminals were apprehended on October 5, the day when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died.
Apple products are among the most-wanted items on criminals' shopping lists.
At some point, one of the five criminal gangs involved in the scam conspired to intercept a shipment of Apple MacBook Pro laptops arriving at JFK airport in New York and valued at over one million dollars.
They succeeded in loading the container onto their truck but when later stopped by police it turned out that they’d taken the wrong consignment -- one with construction tools.
The indictment alleges that the criminals were operating in five relatively independent groups and were involved in a scheme aimed at stealing or "skimming" credit card information from unsuspecting customers in restaurants and retail outlets.
The crooks then produced fake credit cards using the stolen information and shopping online with the fraudulent credit cards.
More than 13 million dollars were spent on Apple iPhones, Apple iPads, Apple laptops, Gucci and Louis Vuitton luxury items. The goods were then resold in China, Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Among those charged are four Russian nationals who are believed to have fled to Russia. Two of those, Irina Pervukhina and Alexey Vaselevith have previously been arrested in the U.S. for similar offenses.
In particular, iPhones and iPads are among the most sought-after products because they can fetch a premium price overseas as they sell in some places for twice as much as their retail price in the U.S.
On recent visits to Moscow I have been able to substantially offset the cost of my airfare from New York by taking two brand new iPhones (bought, not stolen) with me on each trip.