Agents from the Secret Service, operating in tandem with law enforcement officials in Canada, Brazil, Poland, Sweden and several other countries, had been investigating the ShadowCrew crime syndicate for months. The agents couldn't risk giving the cybermobsters time to alert their comrades or delete incriminating data.
The group's Web site,, functioned as a sort of identity-theft eBay, a one-stop shop where criminals could buy and sell credit cards, Social Security numbers and mothers' maiden names like used car parts. Over two years, some 4000 ShadowCrew members had amassed two terabytes' worth of other people's lives--18 million e-mail accounts and related personal data--mainly by tricking the victims themselves into giving up their information.
From a central command in Washington, D.C., Secret Service agents relayed the go-ahead to local law enforcement officers in the cooperating countries. "We couldn't yell 'Police!' or they'd be running for their keyboards," says Detective-Constable Mark Fenton of the Vancouver, British Columbia, police department. The carefully coordinated October 2004 bust rounded up 28 suspects around the globe. Many were sitting at their keyboards when the authorities burst in.
Six of the U.S.-based defendants pleaded guilty to credit- and bank-fraud charges in November 2005. How much damage did the group do? "It's a very difficult thing to quantify," says Kimberly Kiefer Peretti, trial attorney with the Department of Justice, "but there are estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

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