WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutors have charged more than 125 suspected computer hackers, identity thieves, and other cyberspace scammers in a nationwide crackdown on Internet crime, law enforcement officials said yesterday.
Those facing charges include run-of-the-mill counterfeiters and software pirates, as well as a man who illegally tried to sell Medals of Honor online and another man who hijacked the website of the Al-Jazeera Arabic language news network to display a patriotic US message.
"The information superhighway should be a conduit for communication, information, and commerce, not an expressway to crime," Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said. "It is a top federal law enforcement priority to stop crime on the Internet."
The investigation, dubbed "Operation Cyber Sweep," has uncovered about 125,000 victims with losses topping $100 million over the past several months. Seventy indictments to date have led to arrests or convictions of 125 people, with more expected as the probe continues.
The investigation involves 34 US attorneys and a host of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Trade Commission. Announcement of the arrests was intended in part to reinforce the government's commitment to tracking down computer crime perpetrators.
"Cyperspace is not outer space," said FTC chairman Timothy Muris. "It makes no difference where you break the law."
Many of the cases detailed yesterday involve stolen credit card numbers, illegal drugs, and sale of counterfeit goods and computer software.