Four people have been arrested and a fraudulent identification manufacturing operation has been shut down following a joint-agency investigation by the Identity Security Strike Team.
The Identity Security Strike Team (ISST) is a multi-jurisdictional initiative between the NSW Police Force, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. It investigates high level, complex identity fraud and related security matters under both Commonwealth and State legislation.
The operation began when Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) officers detected 5000 NSW driver licence holograms after they arrived concealed in a package from China.
This detection led the ISST to commence investigations under Operation Mera.
Police allege they identified a fraudulent identity manufacturing operation in Sydney which had created thousands of fake identification cards, including licences, Medicare cards and credit cards. Some of those cards had been used to commit fraud offences against financial institutions across Sydney.
Police will also allege that false identification was used by one person to board a domestic flight.
Early yesterday (Wednesday 25 February 2015), officers executed search warrants at homes in Canley Vale, Rockdale and Lakemba, arresting four people.
At Canley Vale, officers located computer equipment, printers, card cutters, thousands of blank cards, a large quantity of holograms for licences and credit cards, electronic card templates, card readers, and fraudulent identity documents in various states of manufacture from both Australia and overseas.
At Rockdale, officers located more than 60 mobile phones, as well as computers, card templates, pay slips, bank statements, cash and numerous false identity documents.
At Lakemba, officers located items including approximately 40 mobile phones, a number of credit cards, driver’s licenses, Medicare cards, laptop computers USB and hard drives, financial documents, and holograms for licences.
A 25-year-old man from Rockdale was charged with conspiracy to cheat and defraud, dealing with identification information, possess equipment/material to make false documents, and participation in a criminal group. The Indian national was refused bail to appear at Burwood Local Court today.
A 41-year-old man from Lakemba was charged with conspiracy to cheat and defraud, dealing with identification information, participation in a criminal group, and taking of flight using an air passenger ticket in a false name, and possess equipment/material to make false documents. The Indian national was refused bail to appear at Burwood Local Court today.
A 40-year-old woman from Canley Vale was charged with dealing with identification information, possess equipment/material to make false documents, and participating in a criminal group. The Vietnamese national was given conditional bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court on Monday 16 March 2015.
A 57-year-old man from Canley Vale was charged with dealing with identification information, possess equipment/material to make false documents, and participating in a criminal group. He was given conditional bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court on Monday 16 March 2015.
The offence of deal with identification information carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, while participating in a criminal group carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment.
Additionally, a 50-year-old man was detained by police at the Lakemba address and handed over to Immigration officers due to him being an unlawful non-citizen.
NSW Police Force Fraud and Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, said this was another successful multi-agency investigation into an organised criminal syndicate involved in what police would allege was a highly sophisticated operation into the high level manufacturing of fake identification cards and other documentation.
“Investigators from all agencies have worked tirelessly in identifying the group and their activities over a period of months resulting in today’s successful resolution,” Detective Superintendent Katsogiannis said.
“If you are involved in this type of criminal activity it is only a matter of time before you are identified and caught.
“Our message to members of the public is to always be cautious of who you provide your personal and financial information to, ensuring that there is a legitimate reason to do so. Always take extreme care when placing personal details such as your date of birth, address and phone contacts on your online profiles.”
AFP Fraud and Anti-Corruption Detective Superintendent Stephen Dametto, said identity crime was a key enabler to serious and organised crimes, including counter terrorism, money laundering, and fraud against financial institutions, individuals, government-funded programs and other serious offending.
“This investigation is one of a number of recent successful investigations by the members of the joint Identity Security Strike Team that have dismantled organised syndicates involved in the large scale manufacture of false identification documents,” Detective Superintendent Dametto said.
“The success of this investigation is a direct result of the close working relationship between the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police Force, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, bringing together the collective powers of these agencies to achieve outstanding results. This is a clear warning to anyone thinking of engaging in this type of criminal activity that you will be caught.”
ACBPS Regional Commander NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio would continue to work with law enforcement partners to deter organised crime and prevent attempts to fraudulently undermine identity systems.
“In addition to targeting the import of fraudulent identity documents, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will examine the visa status of any non-citizens identified as participating in this criminal network,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
Police are urging anyone with information about identity crime to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/ Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.