16 arrests crack HK$2m credit card scam

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am

A credit card racket that cheated 15 banks out of HK$2 million in the past nine months was broken with the arrest of 16 people, including three core figures, police said yesterday.

Eight credit cards, six forged and stolen identity cards, bogus documents and about HK$30,000 in cash were seized when officers raided more than 20 locations on Monday.

The syndicate, in operation for about nine months, applied to banks for credit cards using false information and supporting documents, police said. Expensive watches, handbags, jewellery and electronic products were bought with the cards, which had credit limits of up to HK$100,000, and then sold to retailers of second-hand goods at a discount of 20 per cent, Chief Inspector Thomas Wong Shing-lee of New Territories South crime unit said.

'Investigations indicated the syndicate was in a conspiracy with some salespersons in the retail outlets,' he said. Six of the 16 people arrested were salespeople from six second-hand retail outlets.

Chief Inspector Wong said the syndicate had cheated 69 credit cards out of 15 banks with bogus identity cards and documents.

Police began to investigate the syndicate after banks called them in in January.

Two of the core members were arrested when they sold goods to two retail outlets in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok on Monday evening. The third core figure was arrested in Kwai Chung.

Police said the syndicate bought forged identities and documents from a mainland syndicate. 'Each set of forged identities and documents was sold for between HK$3,000 and HK$3,500,' Chief Inspector Wong said. 'The copies include forged and stolen identity cards, bills of public utility and bank statements.'

The syndicate altered the names and addresses on the documents before submitting them to banks to apply for credit cards. 'Applicants were claimed to be managers and accountants of well-known companies ... in order to get a high credit limit,' a police source said.

Old buildings with lax security were used as postal addresses for the credit cards so they could be stolen from letter boxes, police said.

The gangsters then hired people to go on spending sprees, paying them between HK$1,000 and HK$2,000 a day.

The 16 suspects - 11 men and five women - were arrested for conspiracy to defraud and handling stolen goods. They were being held for questioning last night and no charges had been laid. Officers are still hunting for two more men.