THE Hong Kong mastermind of an international credit card scam has pleaded guilty in a US court to swindling businesses throughout the world of millions of dollars. Tam Wai-keung was identified as the man behind the credit card operation by officers of Hong Kong's Commercial Crime Bureau in 1991 but it was not until this week that he and four accomplices were brought to justice. However, a worldwide alert has been issued for his wife, Lai Hui-chui, who is on the run and believed to be hiding in Los Angeles. Suspected ring member Wong Siu-fun will be extradited from Thailand. Commercial Crime Bureau Superintendent Peter Bunning said the operation to catch the ring led by Tam had been instigated in Hong Kong and followed up by the US Secret Service which was responsible for policing counterfeit laws. Mr Bunning said the scam involved producing fake VISA and Mastercard credit cards in a factory in Macau and then distributing them for sale with fake identification cards. He said the bogus cards were linked to genuine credit card accounts, the details of which were obtained from corrupt employees in financial institutions. Tam, with four others, Sun Cheung, Raymond Ching, Li Chi-cheong and Alex Lixin Qui pleaded guilty in the Miami Federal Court. The fake credit cards were used in jewellery stores, leather boutiques and department stores in Europe, the United States and Puerto Rico to purchase about US$65 million (HK$501 million) worth of merchandise. The cards were mailed from Macau to the United States, the indictment said. The ring also mailed devices to make the fake VISA cards and Mastercards, such as stamp presses, to Los Angeles. Mr Bunning said some of the fake credit cards had been used in Hong Kong, but because of more stringent identity checks by shop staff in the territory than in many parts of the world, the cards were generally used elsewhere. ''We have them using counterfeit credit cards at a jewellery store in Puerto Rico to purchase over US$20,000 worth of jewellery including Rolex watches,'' said Peter Prieto, assistant US Attorney for South Florida. The men produced fake California driver's licences for identification and used various aliases such as Albert Law, Chan Man Fat, Tony Prananato and Johnson P.K. Ho, according to the indictment. The US Secret Service has seized more than 200 counterfeit credit cards and ledgers with numerous account numbers. Agents also found more than two dozen counterfeit California driver's licences and many Indonesian driving permits, Prieto said. Sentencing for the five ring members was set for March 18. Authorities have not recovered the stolen items. Two Hong Kong detectives attended the court case in the United States.