Three of the defendants -- Vadim Vassilenko, Yelena Barysheva, and John Washington -- were arraigned the day of the announcement. Six of them -- Tetyana Goloborodko, Douglas Latta, Angela Perez, Kostas Kapsis, Lyndon Roach, and Keith Cummings -- were arraigned previously. Two of them -- Eduard Kholstinin and Oleksiy Yarne -- are in custody in other states on unrelated charges. And six others are still being sought by authorities.
Western Express International, formerly headquartered in Manhattan, also was indicted. Vadim Vassilenko and Yelena Barysheva served as corporate officers for the company.
Wednesday's indictment arises from an earlier investigation and indictment of Western Express in February 2006. Vadim Vassilenko and Yelena Barysheva pleaded guilty to charges in that case and both are serving sentences in state prison.
The 173-count indictment is the culmination of a two-year joint investigation conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney's Identity Theft Unit and the United States Secret Service. It charges the defendants with participating in a multinational, Internet-based criminal enterprise -- known to authorities as the "Western Express Cybercrime Group" -- that trafficked in stolen credit card data and personal information.
"The defendants created and participated in a computerized marketplace for the global trafficking of stolen credit card numbers and other stolen personal identifying information," the Manhattan district attorney's office said in a statement Wednesday. "That marketplace enabled the defendants to conduct anonymous transactions, via the Internet and by other means, using sophisticated payment schemes. The payment schemes were intended to ensure that the participants in the transactions would be impossible to identify, and that the proceeds of their criminal activity could not be traced."
The Manhattan district attorney's office alleges that the Western Express committed more than $4 million worth of credit card fraud, and trafficked in more than 95,000 stolen credit card numbers. The company may be responsible for additional fraud which has yet to be identified.
Over the course of four years, $35 million flowed through various bank accounts set up by Western Express, some of which can be attributed to an illegal check cashing business, Morgenthau's office claims. The criminal enterprise allegedly made extensive use of digital currencies e-gold and WebMoney for money laundering and to conceal the movement of funds.
The defendants are charged with enterprise corruption, a class B felony that is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Additional charges include grand larceny, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, falsifying business records, criminal possession of a forged instrument, scheme to defraud, and conspiracy to commit the crimes of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.