Phisher who victimized tens of thousands pleads guilty

Tien Truong (“Tim”) Nguyen, 30, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The case began in 2007 when Nguyen was indicted (pdf) for being part of a phishing scheme ring that victimized tens of thousands of individuals between October 15, 2005 and about January 26, 2007.

According to Assistant United States Attorneys Robin R. Taylor and Matthew D. Segal of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Unit (“CHIP” unit), who are prosecuting the case, Nguyen admitted that he was part of an international identity theft operation in which he used his computer to obtain credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers, e-mail addresses, and other personal identification information of tens of thousands of victims.

The scheme involved Nguyen and others, including individuals in Romania, who used phishing techniques to obtain personal data that they gave to others who used it to obtain “instant credit” at Walmart stores throughout Northern California. Nguyen’s computer contained traces of software related to phishing, tens of thousands of complete identities, and chat logs in which he and his co-conspirators discussed their crimes.

Each credit card fraud offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy to commit computer and credit card fraud offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The aggravated identity theft provision provides for a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any sentence imposed by the court. In addition, the defendant may be required to pay a fine and restitution. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables and any applicable statutory sentencing factors.
Nguyen’s sentencing is scheduled for November 19, 2009.

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