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East European ID theft scam gang jailed

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The leader of one of the world's most prolific ID theft gangs was sentenced to six years imprisonment at a hearing in London's Harrow Crown Court on Wednesday. Two other members of the same gang have been jailed for five years and eighteen months respectively.

Anton Dolgov (AKA Anton Gelonkin), a former boss of the ill-fated Moscow City Bank, masterminded the theft of millions from victims across Europe and north America. The gang created false identities to apply for credit cards under bogus names. Electronic items and goods such as cameras bought using these cards were later sold through eBay auctions. The gang also set up online gambling accounts under false names, whose winnings were directed to bank accounts held under bogus names and established through forged documents.

Investigators reckon the scam might have been running for up to 10 years prior to its discovery. But the case against the gang centered on its activities between June 2003 and January 2005 during which time the gang made an estimated £750,000 through its various criminal enterprises, The Times reports.

UK police began investigating the case after Spanish officers arrested another suspected gang member, Andreas Fuhrmann, who is currently awaiting trial in Spain. This arrest prompted Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for Anthony Peyton, one of Gelonkin's numerous aliases. The suspect was tracked down after he reported a burglary at one of his UK offices. A subsequent raid by officers from the Met's Serious and Organised Crime unit in north Kensington uncovered a wealth of evidence.

However much of this data was lost to investigators after another member of the gang, Aleksei Kostap, succeeded in flicking a switch on a ceiling of the gang's headquarters that wiped data, despite being under arrest and in handcuffs at the time, The Times adds.

Kostap, 31, from Estonia, denied involvement in the scam but was subsequently found guilty of a series of fraud offences and of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, the latter because of his database wiping hijinks. Gelonkin, 42, admitted four conspiracy charges and another gang member, Romanos Vasilauskas, 24, from Lithuania, confessed to the possession of three false passports.

At a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Gelonkin was imprisoned for six years and Kostap for five years. Vasilauskas was jailed for 18 months at an earlier sentencing hearing. ®

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