Of the 11 suspects arrested, most were from foreign countries.
For three years, San Diego-based Secret Service agents used the Internet to communicate with thieves, part of an investigation that has led to the prosecution of what federal officials call the largest identity-theft ring ever busted.
“The investigation started here in San Diego,” local U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt said yesterday. “It spread across the country and around the world.”
Three of those charged are U.S. citizens. The others are from Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and China.
Officials say the full breadth of the conspiracy is staggering – more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers stolen from some of the nation's most popular retail chains.
The thieves hacked into wireless networks of retailers, including BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW, as well as TJX Cos., owners of Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, authorities said.