Nine people have been arrested and an identification manufacturing operation has been shut down following a joint-agency investigation into alleged identity crime offences, NSW Police say.
The Identity Security Strike Team (ISST), a multi-jurisdictional initiative between the NSW Police Force and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), investigates high level, complex identity fraud and related security matters under both Commonwealth and State legislation.
In August 2015, the ISST received information relating to the use of fraudulent documents at financial institutions across Sydney, and commenced investigations under Operation Sif.
Police will allege in court they identified a fraudulent identity manufacturing operation in Sydney, which had created fake and altered passports, and fake cheques, which had been used to commit fraud offences against financial institutions across Sydney.
ISST investigators executed search warrants three homes in Sydney CBD and one at Forest Lodge yesterday.
Officers located and seized computers, laptops, electronic storage devices, fake passports, altered passports in various names, various identity documents, cheque books from various financial institutions, altered cheques, bank cards, cash, clothing, a skeleton key and a suspected fraudulent immigration stamp.
Five men – aged 23, 26, 29, 30 and 31 – were arrested during the operation, with three taken to Day Street Police Station and two taken to Newtown Police Station.
The 23-year-old Sydney man was charged with four counts of fraud; conspiracy to cheat and defraud; and participate in criminal group.
The 26-year-old Sydney man was charged with 22 counts of deal with identity information; conspiracy to cheat and defraud; fraud; possess identity information and participate in criminal group.
The 29-year-old Sydney man was charged with deal with identity information and armed with intent to commit indictable offence. He was also identified as an unlawful non-citizen.
The men were refused bail to appear at Central Local Court today.
The 30-year-old Forest Lodge man was charged with 12 counts of making a false document; three counts of deal with identity information; conspiracy to cheat and defraud; making or possession of equipment for making false documents; and participate in criminal group.
The 31-year-old Forest Lodge man was charged with four counts of deal with identity information; conspiracy to cheat and defraud; and participate in criminal group.
The men were refused bail to appear at Newtown Local Court today.
Four further men – three aged 24 and one aged 27 – were detained as suspected unlawful non-citizens and later transferred to Villawood Immigration Detention Facility, pending their removal from Australia.
Detective Acting Superintendent Matt Craft, State Crime Command’s Fraud & Cybercrime Squad Commander, commended ISST investigators for their expertise, passion, and commitment.
“Identity crime is emerging as one of the great challenges in modern policing, which can impact any member of the community,” Det A/Supt Craft said.
“This was a complex investigation and today’s arrests are the culmination of months of outstanding police work by the ISST.
“Once again, we have shown how collaborations between law enforcement agencies combat identity crime to reduce financial and emotional distress to individual victims,” Det A/Supt Craft said.
AFP Commander Peter Crozier said the task force is continuing to work with its partner agencies on the complex issue of identity crime.
“Identity crime is a $2 billion a year criminal activity that affects one in every five Australians. It creates an avenue for other crime types, such as organised crime and cyber offences.
“The AFP will continue to work with its partner agencies through the ISST in order to combat the compounding issue of identity crime,” Commander Crozier said.
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.