“In a new twist on identify theft fraud, a Michigan operation allegedly used ‘credit mules’ posing as new or existing cell contract customers to scam thousands of free or subsidized phones from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Best Buy, Radio Shack and Apple stores,” Janet Novack reports for Forbes.

“According to a previously unreported federal lawsuit filed last Friday, during a four month investigation, U.S. Secret Service agents watched as individuals carrying Apple iPhone boxes and cell store shopping bags trooped into a store in Taylor, Michigan run by iBuy Express, Inc., dealt with a clerk shielded by bullet proof glass, and then left iBuy without their boxes and bags, but with wads of cash,” Novack reports. “Investigators riffling through iBuy’s trash found bags from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Best Buy, Radio Shack and Apple stores; receipts for phones shipped by AT&T and Verizon to Michigan addresses; and SIM cards, indicating, the government alleges, that the phones were being unlocked or hacked for sale in overseas markets.”

Novack reports, “According to the suit, the credit mules sometimes scammed new, subsidized phones by using stolen identities to sign new two year cell phone service contracts with multiple carriers. At other times they used “account takeovers”— posing as an established customer who wants to add new lines and phones to his or her cell plan… As an indication of just how big the operation had gotten, the government says that between Jan. 2 and March 12th of this year, iBuy’s account at Citizen’s Bank of Michigan posted $6.9 million of wire transfers in and $3.3 million in transfers out and that an armored car service was used to deliver cash from the account to iBuy’s storefront.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JES42″ for the heads up.]