Alleged criminals lifted credit card numbers from New York restaurant customers
"We would obtain email from one account that had a list of credit card numbers and instructions on how to create counterfeit credit cards," said Honolulu deputy prosecutor Chris van Marter, who also heads the city's cyber and white collar crimes unit.
Armed with that kind of access online, he said the hunt kicked into overdrive for a group of identity thieves from Brooklyn, N.Y., who traveled to Waikiki.
"These five visitors were not tourists. They were criminals," said Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.
Detectives said from the minute they got to Hawaii, they were ready to splurge.
The group of identity thieves arrived in April 2012, and detectives said the first thing they did was check in to the Trump Hotel in Waikiki.
Law enforcement officers arrested three women and two men.
In some pictures collected by detectives, the alleged criminals were dressed up in swanky stolen clothes.
Detectives said the theft ring first stole the credit card numbers from 17 victims, who all ate at the same restaurant in New York.
They then made new cards, with new names on those cards.
According to the indictment, the group spent $325,437 in just a few days.
"They came in quickly, started stealing, and were out before law enforcement had a grasp of what happened," said Secret Service Asst. Special Agent Tim Hollern, who works at the Honolulu field office.
But a new Hawaii law called the Long-Arm Statute now requires out-of-state companies to hand over online records to investigators.
The very network that netted those stolen numbers is now arming investigators with the evidence to bring criminals down.
"We were able to obtain pictures of one of the defendants standing on the balcony of the Trump Hotel in Waikiki," said van Marter.
"The indications of this group are they are active in other areas and internationally," said Hollern.
Two of the suspects were caught Friday morning.
Two others will soon be extradited from Aruba, where they fled to, back to Hawaii.
The first suspect caught will be in court on Feb. 14.
Another change to Hawaii law in 2012 means the penalty for many cyber and white collar crimes has doubled.
Conviction for identity theft can result in up to 20 years in prison without parole.
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