Operation WebSnare Tallies Over 100 Internet Criminals

The Justice Department announced Thursday that its “Operation WebSnare,” has resulted in the arrest of more than 100 criminals in the past 3 months throughout the United States.

Over 160 investigations have begun and 117 criminal complaints and indictments have resulted from the investigations so far.

Already, 53 people have been convicted in Operation WebSnare, which involved upwards of 150,000 victims who lost over US$215 million as a result of crimes ranging from credit card fraud to e-mail identity theft schemes known as “phishing.”

Long Arm of the Law

“This is a series of cases that is designed to signal that we do not believe the Internet to be off base for law enforcement,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference.

The Attorney General estimates that identity theft alone costs U.S. businesses over $50 billion each year. “When you have $50 billion worth of damage being done to the economy of the United States of America, then it deserves some of our attention,” Ashcroft said Thursday.

International Cooperation

Ashcroft also noted that the U.S. had worked with law enforcement officials in Cyprus, Nigeria and Romania, most of who were involved in fraudulent auctions and stolen credit card numbers.

Nigeria has been identified as the source of what is now a well-known e-mail scam that sends a message claiming to be from former African nation leaders or their family members, offering large sums of money as a lure to get bank account information from unsuspecting victims.

FTC chairwoman Deborah Majoras was quoted as saying, “The Internet is stimulating the development of innovative products and services that were barely imaginable only a few years ago. There is a risk, however, that these benefits will not be fully realized if consumers associate the Internet with fraudulent operators.”

In related news, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have filed a criminal complaint against Jie Dong, a man accused of stealing more than $750,000 by orchestrating over 5,000 fraudulent sales on eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), which continues to be a favorite venue for Internet scam artists.

Jie Dong has reportedly fled the U.S., but not before the government tracked down and put a freeze on about $280,000 of what it believes is stolen cash.

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