California Man and Chinese Nationals Sentenced to Prison for Laundering Fraudulent Gift Cards at Target Stores

California Man and Chinese Nationals Sentenced to Prison for Laundering Fraudulent Gift Cards at Target Stores

A California man and two Chinese nationals have been sentenced to prison terms of 15, 10, and 8 years, respectively, for their involvement in a sophisticated scheme to launder proceeds from fraudulent gift cards purchased at Target stores across the United States.

Fraudulent Scheme Details

Blade Bai of El Monte, California, along with Bowen Hu and Tairan Shi, both residing in California, were part of a network that capitalized on telephone-scam fraud victims.

Victims were tricked into purchasing Target gift cards, typically worth $500 each, and providing the card numbers and access codes to scammers impersonating government officials or tech support personnel.

Laundering Operation

The defendants acquired over 5,000 gift card numbers and access codes from a group in China known as the “Magic Lamp” and directed “runners” to liquidate the cards at Target stores in Southern California.

The rapid transactions prevented Target from recovering the value on the cards, causing significant financial losses for the original victims.

Legal Proceedings and Sentencing

Following a jury conviction for money laundering conspiracy spanning from approximately June 2019 to November 2020, Bai, Hu, and Shi were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 8 to 15 years.

Additionally, Bai was convicted of a second money laundering conspiracy after enlisting an associate to sell gift cards with fraudulent proceeds.

Law Enforcement Statements

Officials from the Department of Justice, FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations emphasized the commitment to combatting transnational fraud schemes and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

The successful investigation involved collaboration between multiple agencies, including the FBI, HSI, and local police departments.

Support for Fraud Victims

The Justice Department provides support for fraud victims aged 60 or older through the National Elder Fraud Hotline, offering personalized assistance and resources for reporting financial fraud.

Victims are encouraged to report incidents promptly to increase the likelihood of recovering losses and holding perpetrators accountable.

Additional Resources

The department’s Elder Justice Initiative and Consumer Protection Branch offer resources and information to combat elder fraud, including filing complaints with the FTC and accessing victim support services through the Office for Victims of Crime.

Reporting fraud is crucial in preventing further victimization and prosecuting offenders.

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