In a story that conjures up the worst fears of online shoppers, Italian tax
police arrested an Italian man and his Israeli wife over the weekend,
accusing them of using thousands of stolen American credit card numbers to
place $750,000 worth of online lottery bets.
Thousands of credit card numbers were involved and the vast majority was
issued by two U.S. banks — Chase Manhattan and Citibank.
The couple, arrested at their house in the eastern Sicilian city of Catania,
won about $400,000 from the betting, Capt. Giancarlo Sulsenti of the
paramilitary tax police told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from
The pair, who allegedly hacked into computers to obtain the Visa and
Mastercard numbers, also went on an online buying spree, ordering clothing,
watches and books, police said.
Giuseppe Russo, 34, an electronics system expert, and Croatian-born Sandra
Elazar, 33, a linguist and interpreter, were charged with illegal use of
credit cards. In most cases, the couple would run about $2,500 worth of
charges on each card, authorities said.
Investigators in Italy were tipped off by a banking service that became
suspicious about bets placed with an online lottery agent in Bergamo in
Without worrying about the expense and playing all possible combinations so
as to secure the win, the couple was able to win $400,000, a tax police
statement said. The winnings were then laundered through various bank
accounts, including some abroad.