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18 charged with credit fraud

NEWARK — Eighteen people have been charged in what may be one of the nation’s largest credit card fraud rings, a sprawling international scam that duped credit rating agencies and used thousands of fake identities to steal at least $200 million, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The elaborate scheme involved improving fake cardholders’ credit scores, allowing the scammers to borrow more money that they never repaid, investigators said.

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‘‘The accused availed themselves of a virtual cafeteria of sophisticated frauds and schemes, whose main menu items were greed and deceit,’’ said David Velazquez, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark field office.

The US attorney in Newark, Paul Fishman, described an intricate Jersey City-based con that began in 2007, operated in at least 28 states.

It wired money to Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Romania, China, and Japan.

The group used at least 7,000 fake identities to obtain more than 25,000 credit cards, Fishman said.

Investigators documented $200 million in losses, but the figure could rise, he said.

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