55 Indicted in Alleged City Fraud Ring

Fifty-five employees were indicted for allegedly taking part in an identity theft and cyber-fraud ring, the Manhattan District Attorney's office announced Friday.

Trusted employees at a charity, a bank and other businesses allegedly used their positions to gain access to personal information -- then handed that information over to other defendants, who allegedly used it to forge checks and conduct other fraudulent transactions, District Attorney Cy Vance said.

The scheme made use of "nearly every tool that is now in the identity thief's tool box," Vance said. Officials said more than 200 people may have been swindled in the scheme.

"It includes the outright theft of identifying information, forgery of checks, credit card fraud, fraudulent bank transfers both online and by phone, and fencing of high-end merchandise that has been purchased," Vance said.

Officials estimate that the defendants netted more than $2 million, with victims including individuals and institutions like JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and the United Jewish Appeal Federation or UJA.

Law enforcement officials said several of the defendants were part of gang known as the Outlaws.

Vance said investigators made use of authorized wire-tapping, surveillance and analysis of financial transactions over an 18-month period to crack the case.

His office has released a list of suggestions to help avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, including keeping a close eye on all financial accounts and transactions. See a full list here.

With the Associated Press