Alhambra man sentenced for $1 million credit card fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES — An Alhambra man received a sentence of more than 7 years in federal prison Thursday for heading a global credit card fraud ring that netted more than $1 million, authorities said.
Zhanghang Wu, 38, received his 87-month prison sentence from United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. He pleaded guilty in December, 2012, to charges of conspiracy and credit card fraud.
He was convicted of leading a fraud ring that, “used stolen credit card numbers from around the world to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of luxury goods, cosmetics, electronics and other merchandise at retail stores,” Mrozek said.
Once credit card information was obtained, “That stolen information was used to manufacture counterfeit credit cards that bore the names of ‘runners’ — co-conspirators who went to retail stores including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch — who used the fake cards to make fraudulent transactions,” according to Mrozek. “After the runners purchased items with the counterfeit credit cards, they either returned the goods for credit, or the goods were sold to other parties.”
Investigators looking into the fraudulent use of credit cards in the San Gabriel Valley first discovered Wu’s wide-reaching scheme, officials said. He had previously been investigated for similar allegations by Chinese authorities.
After searching Wu’s home and finding machinery used to make credit cards and computers containing credit card information, Secret Service agents arrested Wu in July of 2012 in Las Vegas, “where he had He had fled after the search of his residence and where he continued to engage in credit card fraud,” Mrozek said.
“Wu had been living in casino hotels for several weeks and at the time of his arrest, was in the process of sending a group of runners to Chicago to continue the scheme,” Mrozek added.
Wu was the second San Gabriel Valley man to be sentenced to prison this month for widespread credit card fraud.
Xiaoliang Chen, 27, of Monterey Park was sentenced Nov. 4 to more than four years in federal prison for a similar scam that netted nearly a half-million dollars, Mrozek said. Chen was arrested in August of 2012, also in Las Vegas.

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La Puente woman accused of scamming more than a dozen SGV residents

Si Liu, 44, La Puente

A La Puente woman has been charged with 25 felony counts for promising to help more than a dozen people already in financial trouble get quick and easy loans, but instead using their personal information to steal from them, officials announced Thursday.
Si H. Liu, also known as Katie, 44, of La Puente, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges including burglary, grand theft, using an access card and possession of access card information, according to Monterey Park police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. She was arrested at her home July 12.
Sixteen victims had been confirmed, with additional victims yet to be contacted by police, Lt. Carrie Mazelin said.
“There might be more who haven’t reported it,” the lieutenant said.
“It started with one original report (in June),” she explained.
After launching an investigation and finding Liu in possession of other people’s sensitive documents and credit cards, detectives linked the suspect to similar crimes throughout the San Gabriel Valley, Mazelin said. Many of the known victims were located in Monterey Park, though some came from as far away as Hacienda Heights.
Liu would take out adds in Chinese language publications such as the Chinese Daily News, according to the police statement.
“Liu asked victims for their identification, social security numbers, and all of their credit cards so that she could ‘check their credit’ in order to obtain loans,” according to the statement. “Instead,Liu allegedly used the credit cards to obtain cash for herself using a credit card machine that she owned.”
Some of the victims also reported that Liu would accompany them to stores, such as Best Buy, where she would instruct them to open up a credit account as a way of building their credit, Mazelin said. Liu would instruct the victims to buy items for her, promising to pay them back, but never did.
The total amount of the alleged theft was not available Thursday, however some of the victims lost thousands of dollars, Mazelin said.
Liu would eventually return the victims’ credit cards, IDs and other documents, but only after making color copies, “possibly for the purpose of committing fraud and identity theft in the future,” the police statement said.
Liu, who speaks both Mandarin and English, has lived in the United Stated for about 10 years, officials said. She represents herself as a real estate agent and may also own a massage business in Fullerton.
Additional victims, or anyone with information was asked to contact Monterey Park police Detective Han at 626-307-1246.
According to officials and court records, Liu was being held in lieu of $560,000 bail pending her next court appearance July 30 in Alhambra Superior Court.

BOOKING PHOTO courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department

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Pico Rivera man, Downey woman get five years for prison unemployment fraud

NORWALK – Two people were sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for fraudulently getting more than $20,000 in unemployment benefits for a Pico Rivera gang member and convicted murder. Authorities said several gang members in county jail also got a share of the money.

Jury selection started Tuesday in the trial of Juan Leonard Garcia, 48, of Pico Rivera, and Sandra Muro Jaimez, 46, of Downey, at Norwalk Superior Court when the pair took a plea deal.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Enomoto said Juan Garcia pleaded guilty to two counts of making false unemployment insurance claims and two counts of second-degree burglary while Jaimez pleaded guilty to making a false unemployment insurance claim, possession for sale of methamphetamine and felony child abuse. She also admitted to the allegation that the fraud was committed to benefit a gang, Enomoto said.

The judge also ordered Juan Garcia and Jaimez to pay restitution of $22,087 plus interest to the California Employment Development Department.

A third defendant, 26-year-old Cynthia Limas of Menifee, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft last year. Enomoto said Limas was sentenced to probation, 180 days in county jail and community labor

FULL STORY…

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Arcadia man accused of year-long credit card fraud spree

Prosecutors Wednesday filed eight felony charges, with more likely to come later, against an Arcadia man who used a complex credit card fraud and forgery scheme to support an opulent lifestyle at the expense of others for more than a year, investigators said.
South Pasadena police arrested Feng Xian, 21, Monday on charges including forgery, fraud, burglary and possession of equipment for forging fake credit cards, South Pasadena police Detective Bill Earley said.
At a room he was renting in Arcadia, police found 244 allegedly fraudulent credit cards, along with embossing machines and electronic equipment used to create the bogus cards, the detective said.
And it appeared Xian, who drove a Mercedes-Benz and wore designer clothing and jewelry despite having “no visible means of support,” had been involved in the scheme for many months.
“He’s been doing this for at least a year,” Earley said. “I have receipts more than a year old.”

… FULL STORY

PHOTOS of seized property, suspect Feng Xian courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department

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FBI: San Gabriel man skips out on sentencing after admitting more than $11 million in fraud

The FBI is seeking a San Gabriel man who failed to show up for his sentencing Monday after pleading guilty to defrauding dozens of families of more than $11 million.
David Kaup, 29, pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of wire fraud April 9, FBI officials said in a written statement.
He admitted taking part in three separate schemes using the business names Lunden Investments, American Loans and Funding and First Mortgage West, officials said.
“Kaup admitted in his plea agreement that over a period of approximately five years, he defrauded more than 50 families out of more than $11 million,” according to the FBI statement. “Many of these victims were working class families who sought Kaup’s assistance in refinancing their homes.”
Through Lunden Investments, authorities said, Kaup solicited more than $9 million from investors, telling them them he was using the money to fund commercial loans.
“Kaup admitted in his plea, however, that he instead lost approximately $9 million of the victims’ money trading on the foreign currency exchange market,” according to the FBI statement.
Through the other two companies, ALF and FMW, Kaup tricked homeowners into sending him money by promising to help them refinance their homes at below-market rates, officials said. He told the victims he needed an up-front payment to demonstrate that they were financially qualified, which would be returned to them upon approval or denial of their loans.
But instead, officials said, Kaup used the money to buy luxury items for himself and trade on the foreign currency exchange market.
While carrying out the schemes, Kaup used the aliases David Smith and David Martinez, according to the FBI.
He’s described as 5 feet 11 inches tall, 190 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He’s been known to work as disc jockey in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas using the moniker, “New Age Dave.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 888-226-8443.

PHOTO of David Kaup courtesy of the FBI.

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Alhambra Police seeking victims of fraud

Detectives are looking for additional victims of an Alhambra man who allegedly scammed people using newspaper and Internet ads.
Kevin Hu was arrested Oct. 16 on suspicion of grand theft. Police said the charges were related to a Chinese newspaper fraud scheme.
“Mr. Hu uses a ruse to obtain a victim’s bank account information while discussing an employment opportunity,” Sgt. Jerry Johnson said in a statement.
Hu makes it appear to the victim that he deposited money into his or her account, according to Johnson.
He said the deposits are later found to be fraudulent.
The victim is later told to withdraw from the account and give the money to the suspect.
Hu was known to meet potential victims via newspaper and Internet ads and at coffee houses throughout the San Gabriel Valley, Johnson said.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of the scam or who has any information on the case is asked to call Detective John Lee at the Alhambra Police Department 626-570-5158.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Downey-based oncology center targeted by fraud investigators

A Downey-based cancer center servicing Los Angeles and Orange counties is the target of an investigation by the FBI and federal fraud investigators, authorities said.
The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation, housed along with other business in an office building in the 11400 block of Brookshire Avenue in Downey, was paid a visit March 15 by FBI agents and investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, FBI spokeswoman Ari Dekofsky said Friday.
“Agents from the FBI and OIS HHS executed a federal search warrant at that location pursuant to an ongoing investigation,” Dekofsky said.
No arrests resulted from the raid, she said, though she declined to comment on what investigators were looking for.
“The search warrant is sealed by the court, so we’re prohibited from commenting,” Dekofsky said.
Representatives of the Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation could also not be reached for comment Friday.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also could not be reached for comment Friday, however according to the agency’s website, it’s Office of Inspector General is responsible for combatting waste, fraud and abuse of Medicaid, Medicare and hundreds of other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services programs.
In addition to the Downey office, The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation has locations in Whittier, La Mirada, Montebello, Long Beach, Glendale, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Torrance and Tucson, Arizona.
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Wine dealer from Arcadia accused of millions of dollars worth of fraud

LOS ANGELES — Federal officials arrested an Arcadia wine dealer Thursday on suspicion of trying to sell $1.3 million worth of counterfeit wine and fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in loans.
Rudy Kurniawan, 35, was arrested early Thursday in Los Angeles on suspicion of three counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud U.S. Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
The alleged crimes took place between 2007 and 2012, officials said. 
According to a complaint filed Thursday in federal court, Kurniawan attempted to have 162 bottles of counterfeit rare wine sold at auction in 2008 and 2012. The second transaction involved a third party as a “straw seller” because auction officials had become suspicious of Kurniawan’s wares, officials said.
Additionally, officials allege that Kurniawan obtained millions of dollars in loans to fund an extravagant lifestyle by understating his personal debts and offering collateral that had already been pledged to other lenders.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Complex Frauds Unit.
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Temple City resident accused of defrauding elderly woman

LONG BEACH — A Temple City woman accused of stealing millions of dollars from a 74-year-old Long Beach woman who had a stroke and hired her as a caretaker remained at large Saturday, as Long Beach police asked the public for help in catching her.
Li Ching Liu, 54, of Temple City, who also goes by the name Susan Liu, allegedly “withdrew large amounts of cash” from the victim’s bank accounts and even arranged the sale of a Westminster strip mall the victim once owned and relied upon for monthly income, according to the Long Beach Police Department.
The victim had amassed a personal fortune from investments in commercial real estate, until she had a stroke in February January 2002, police said.
She hired Liu to help her with daily activities, but the caretaker isolated the woman from her family, friends and business contacts and then allegedly started draining her bank accounts.
Authorities said she laundered some $4 million dollars and purchased jewelry, a Porsche SUV and a home in Temple City.
Liu’s husband and son were convicted of financial elder abuse last year, but authorities have never been able to find Liu, police said.
Investigators believe Liu may be hiding in the Los Angeles area, where she may be enrolled in a nursing school or providing care to other seniors.
Liu is Chinese, 5 feet 4 inches and about 150 pounds. Police believe she has a gambling habit and frequents several casinos including Pechanga, Harrah’s, the Bicycle Club and Pala.<NO1><NO>

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Judge sentences Diamond Bar man for insurance fraud

LOS ANGELES — A Diamond Bar man must repay $1.38 million and spend five years on probation for failing to pay workers’ compensation insurance for employees at his nurse staffing agency.
Joseph Baiden, 57, will also have to pay the California Department of Insurance $110,000 to cover the cost of the investigation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said in a written statement.
Prosecutors say Baiden underreported the number of employees who worked for his company, Los Angeles-based Nurse Connections, Inc., leading to reduced workers’ compensation payments.
He pleaded guilty to insurance fraud after the scheme was uncovered.
Judge David Horowitz sentenced Baiden on Friday. The judge ordered Baiden to be electronically monitored for the first three months of his probation. He also suspended a five-year prison sentence.
The fraud occurred between 2001 and 2007.
The investigation into Baiden began in September, 2008 after authorities received a tip.
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said Baiden appeared to be living a “lavish lifestyle” with proceeds from the fraud.
Government officials seized three homes that belonged to him in Diamond Bar. They are in the 2700 block of Wagon Train Lane, the 2200 block of Rusty Pump Road and the 800 block of Sunset Place.
Officials also seized a vacant residential lot on Derringer Lane in Diamond Bar and a home on Pala Mesa Drive in Pomona.
The total value of the properties is estimated at $4 million.

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