US law enforcement officials have arrested six individuals suspected of carrying out a fraud scheme built around the misuse of credit card data stolen from retailer TJX Companies.

Officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they have taken six of 10 suspects into custody for allegedly using the TJX customer data to purchase large quantities of gift cards from discount chains Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

The series of arrests marks the first specific instance of crime to be connected to the TJX data heist , although some banks have previously reported that accounts held by consumers affected by the incident had been used in attempted fraud around the globe.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials confirmed that they initially reported the crime ring to TJX in Nov. 2006. The retail chain began informing its customers about the data breach – blamed on a computer systems intrusion – in mid-January 2007.

TJX media representatives didn't immediately return call seeking comment on the arrests.

Irving Escobar, age 18; Reinier Camaraza Alvarez, 27; Julio Oscar Alberti, 33; Dianelly Hernandez, 19; Nair Zuleima Alvarez, 40; and Zenia Mercedes Llorente, 23 were named as the suspects charged in the matter.

On 21 February, TJX announced that it had discovered a new set of IT systems intrusions that exposed the personally-identifiable information of its customers. Company officials said that in addition to the IT systems break-ins it detailed in January, it now believes that intruders also infiltrated its databases repeatedly during 2005.

When TJX first reported the incident, company officials said they had become aware of the data theft in late 2006 but waited to begin informing customers of the breach in deference to ongoing law enforcement investigations, including those being carried out by the US Department of Justice and US Secret Service.