SAN DIEGO (CBS/AP) — Federal authorities have arrested nearly two dozen people in connection with tax and bank fraud schemes that used foreign visitors to steal thousands of identities and netted $7 million.

Federal officials say 22 people were arrested Thursday in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Maryland. Thirty-three others are being sought but most are believed to be out of the country.

Federal indictments claim that citizens from former Soviet bloc countries went to San Diego on visas where, working for criminal groups, they allegedly filed some 2,000 tax refunds using stolen identities.

Stolen IDs also allegedly were used to write $600,000 in bad checks to defraud Bank of America.

Some crooks also allegedly stole the IDs of wealthy Wells Fargo customers and sent impostors to withdraw money.

United States Attorney Laura Duffy spoke to KNX1070’s Tom Reopelle about the impact of the operation.

“They were doing phony income tax returns, they were laundering money, they were getting imposters into Wells Fargo to make bank transfers, they were doing bad check writing.

“And so the victims in this case were not just the IRS and the United States government – they are real people whose identities were stolen,” she said.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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