MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A ring of thieves steals millions of dollars, and you're one of those who ends up paying the losses.
"These people didn`t work. They lived off of this scam. Some lived very lavishly and many of them didn`t think they would ever get caught," U.S. Postal Inspector Al Herzog said.
The scam artists created fake documents to get bank loans, mortgages and credit cards.
"Ring of people who eventually learned from one another on how to commit this crime," Herzog said.
Initially, the ring of scammers used their own identity and information to apply for pricey car loans.
"The individuals were submitting fake pay stubs and W-2 forms and falsely inflating their income to qualify for these loans," Herzog said.
This approach had limited success.
Once their credit was ruined, they would obtain stolen social security numbers and fake names to apply for additional loans.
"In many cases, they established fake credit on their fake social security number to make it look like they were paying off loans they didn`t have. This allowed them to get additional loans in that fake name," Herzog said.
The group's ringleader mastered the art of falsifying documents, along with the shell games needed to get an application through the process.
"She went off on her own and became her own one-woman crime wave. She is responsible for $1.6 million of the $2.5 million in losses in the case," Herzog said.
To figure that out, postal inspectors poured through more than 30,000 documents.
"Everybody pays for this type of thing in your credit card rates and your loan rates. In the end, the genuine customers of the credit unions ended up paying for the losses," Herzog said.
17 people were convicted on bank, wire and mail fraud charges in this case, and more arrests are expected.