NEWARK, N.J. – The core of an organized Internet theft and counterfeiting scheme that saw the card information and identities of millions of U.S. consumers compromised and eventually brought about $4 million in losses has pleaded guilty, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Six defendants admitted their respective roles in the online conspiracy to commit credit and bank card fraud, as well as identification document fraud in a Nov. 17 court date. Other participants in the conspiracy pleaded guilty earlier, the office said. "These individuals proved in a big way that the Internet can be a dangerous place where consumers can be victimized without warning," said U.S. attorney Christopher J. Christie. "But as this case also shows, criminals operating in the virtual world of the Internet are not ultimately anonymous. Their crimes can be traced and documented, and they can be tracked down, arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison." "These guilty pleas illustrate the continued success of investigations such as Operation Firewall in disrupting cyber criminal networks," said David O' Connor, special agent in the Secret Service's Newark Field Office. "Through the joint efforts of the Secret Service and our partners at the state, local and federal levels, we continue to aggressively investigate and successfully prosecute criminal activity that threatens our country's financial infrastructure." The six are among 19 total who were indicted after a year-long investigation into the activity surrounding the Web site. Some of the indicted are still at large. The overall indictment charged that the administrators, moderators, vendors and others involved with Shadowcrew conspired to provide stolen credit and bank card numbers and identity documents through the Shadowcrew marketplace. The account numbers and other items were sold by approved vendors who had been granted permission to sell by administrators and moderators of the Shadowcrew site after completing a review process. During his guilty plea, Andrew Mantovani, 23, of Scottsdale, Ariz., acknowledged his role as co-founder, and administrator of the operation, which Christie described as being an organization akin to an Internet mafia. As founder, Mantovani had the power to control the direction of the organization as well as the day-to-day management of the Web site. He admitted using techniques such as phishing and spamming to illegally obtain credit and bank card information, which he then used to make purchases of merchandise online. The illegally obtained goods were then sent to a "drop" or mailing address specifically set up to receive the stolen goods. Some of the merchandise was then sold through E-Bay. Shadowcrew members sent and received payment for illicit merchandise and services via Western Union money transfers and digital currencies such as E-Gold and Web Money. In addition, Mantovani admitted that in September 2004, he illegally acquired, via computer, approximately 18 million e-mail accounts with associated usernames, passwords, dates of birth, and other personally identifying information – approximately 60,000 of which included first and last name, gender, address, city, state, country and telephone number. All conspirators who pleaded guilty acknowledged their role in acquiring stolen credit and bank card numbers from other Shadowcrew members during the course of the conspiracy. The stolen credit account numbers were then used to illegally obtain goods from retail establishments and cash from automated teller machines. [email protected]

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