Fishman said once the credit limits were raised, participants would take out loans or max out the credit cards and not repay the debts.

He said those who obtained credit cards often added co-conspirators and sham businesses as authorized users, who could piggyback on high credit ratings and open other fraudulent accounts with high credit limits.

The group created at least 80 sham businesses that accepted credit card payments, Fishman said. It would run the fraudulently obtained credit cards through the machines, keeping the money, he said.

In one example, prosecutors allege a defendant used a 6-year-old boy's Social Security number to obtain a fake utility bill used to open credit card accounts.

The scheme funded a lavish lifestyle for the accused, including spa treatments, electronics, luxury cars and millions of dollars of gold, Fishman said. In one raid, authorities said they found $68,000 stashed in an oven.

Authorities allege one man withdrew and wired $1.5 million from personal accounts despite not having a job. They allege another defendant was linked to 12 false identities, stole $2.5 million from 464 credit cards and received $18,000 from two sham companies.

Three jewelry stores within blocks of each other in a heavily Indian section of Jersey City were closed Tuesday, and their inventory was seized. All had signs advertising gold jewelry. Their metal security gates were shut, and they were guarded by FBI agents.

Fourteen defendants appeared before a federal judge on Tuesday afternoon. Lawyers said one man was a taxi driver, another a limo driver. Most own property in New Jersey or New York and said they were U.S. citizens. Eight were released, and six remained in custody ahead of a Friday bail hearing.

Authorities said many of the defendants had family ties, including a father and son.

Attorney Angelo Servidio, representing defendant Tarsem Lal, said what authorities had done was merely make allegations.

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