The organization, which operated under the slogan "In Fraud We Trust," was launched in 2010 by Ukrainian Svyatoslav Bondarenko as an online discussion forum. The accused are charged with identity theft, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
"Today's indictment and arrests mark one of the largest cyberfraud enterprise prosecutions ever undertaken by the Department of Justice," acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement. "As alleged in the indictment, Infraud operated like a business to facilitate cyberfraud on a global scale. Its members allegedly caused more than $530 million in actual losses to consumers, businesses, and financial institutions alike — and it is alleged that the losses they intended to cause amounted to more than $2.2 billion."
"The Department of Justice refuses to allow these cybercriminals to use the perceived anonymity of the internet as a shield for their crimes," Cronan added.
Of the 36 individuals charged, officials have only apprehended 13, eight of whom officials plan to extradite from Australia, France, Italy, the UK, Kosovo and Serbia. The other five were arrested in the US. Sergey Medvedev, cofounder for the organization, was among those arrested.
According to officials, those in custody "held defined roles" in the organization that included the management of day-to-day operations, approving and monitoring memberships, selling illicit products and services to Infraud members and using the so-called discussion forum to collect fraudulent information.
Officials have yet to announce whether or not information from Equifax's breach was ever obtained by Infraud. In the indictment, prosecutors stated that members of the cybercrime organization stole PayPal account information from an estimated 1,300 individuals and sold more than 795,000 HSBC bank accounts.
"Criminal cyber organizations like Infraud threaten not just US citizens but people in every corner of the globe," Derek Benner, Homeland Security Investigations acting executive associate director, said in a separate statement. "The actions of computer hackers and identity thieves not only harm countless innocent Americans, but the threat they pose to our financial system and global commerce cannot be overstated."
"The criminals involved in such schemes may think they can escape detection by hiding behind their computer screens here and overseas, but as this case shows, cyberspace is not a refuge from justice," the associate director noted.
The five Americans who were arrested face more than 30 years in prison if convicted, CNET reported.