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 $78,000 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.
"The fact that this is the biggest fraud case brought by this office doesn't mean my client is involved in it," he said.
Four of the defendants named in Tuesday's indictment were arrested previously, and three have pleaded guilty. Others haven't been charged, and the investigation is ongoing, Fishman said.
Each of the defendants was charged with one count of bank fraud and could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.
Associated Press writer Samantha Henry contributed to this report from Jersey City.
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