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Financial Crimes
12/17/2012

California man sentenced to 6 years in prison in credit card fraud scheme

BALTIMORE – Nghia Nguyen, 35, a Vietnamese citizen residing in Santa Ana, Calif., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar to six years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for mail fraud. Judge Bredar also ordered Nguyen to pay $1,300 in restitution and to forfeit $15,000. The forfeiture will be satisfied by selling a Rolex watch that Nguyen was wearing at the time of his arrest.

The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; the United States Secret Service (USSS), Baltimore Field Office; Harford County Sheriff's Office and the Harford County State's Attorney's Office. HSI Orange County, Calif.; the Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Postal Inspection Service in California; City of Orange Police Department; Costa Mesa Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California assisted in the investigation.

According to Nguyen's plea, beginning in 2010 or 2011, through April 11, Nguyen used stolen credit card account data, obtained by a conspirator using a skimming device to re-encode this data onto different cards, then used those cards to make purchases. Nguyen mailed an electronic skimming device to a co-conspirator in Maryland who used the device at the business where he was employed. Once the data of 10 to 15 credit cards was stored on the skimmer, the co-conspirator mailed the skimmer back to Nguyen, along with several credit cards bearing the co-conspirator's name. Nguyen would then extract the data from the skimmer and re-encode the magnetic strip of the other cards with the victims' data. This process was repeated several times over the course of the scheme.

On April 18, 2011, USSS agents used the skimmer to upload the data of seven credit cards fabricated by the USSS then mailed the skimmer and credit cards bearing the co-conspirator's name to Nguyen. Between April 22, 2011 and May 5, 2011, Nguyen attempted to use the data uploaded to the skimmer from the seven fabricated credit cards on 15 occasions at stores and gas stations in California and Arizona. On April 4, another package was delivered to Nguyen containing the skimmer, which had again been loaded with fabricated credit card information by the USSS.

On April 11, Nguyen was arrested at Dulles airport and law enforcement recovered six credit cards from Nguyen, four of which had been re-encoded, a credit card skimming device that contained the information of the fabricated credit cards created by the USSS, a Rolex watch estimated to be worth more than $30,000 and $33,000 in cash. A subsequent search of Nguyen's California home recovered a stolen .380/9mm semi-automatic handgun; two empty magazines and 100 rounds of .380 ammunition; two boxes of financial and identification documents including 107 cards with a magnetic strip and documents listing in spread sheet format; 266 names with Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, passwords and other identifying information.

Nguyen admitted that as a result of the scheme, more than 50 victims incurred losses totaling more than $70,000.

Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok.