Third member of counterfeit credit card ring sentenced in California

The third and final member of a group of Chinese nationals involving in the trafficking of counterfeit credit cards has been sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for transmitting credit card numbers obtained on the Internet to others who used the information to make fraudulent purchases at San Gabriel Valley stores.

Tong Zhang, also known as “Steven,” 24, who resided in the Park La Brea district of Los Angeles and in Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge A. Howard Matz.

Zhang was a student from Shanghai who received an annual $100,000 stipend from his family to attend college at Santa Monica College. Instead of attending the college, Zhang dropped out of school, moved to Las Vegas and bought counterfeit credit card numbers over the Internet. Zhang re-sold the fraudulently obtained credit card numbers to others, including co-defendant Fei Wang, 42, of Monterey Park.

Wang placed advertisements in Los Angeles-area, Chinese-language newspapers that offered opportunities to make as much as $10,000 a month.

But instead of legitimate opportunities, Wang and the third defendant in the case – Donghong Shen, 41, of Monterey Park – gave counterfeit credit cards to the people who answered the advertisements and took them to make fraudulent purchases at San Gabriel Valley-area stores, such as a Wal-Mart store in Glendora.

Federal agents surveilled Wang and Shen in late 2009 as they directed recruits to make fraudulent purchases with counterfeit credit cards. Wang and Shen were arrested at their residence in Monterey Park in January 2010 as they prepared to go out a fourth time. Federal agents arrested Zhang in March 2010 in Las Vegas and recovered more than 600 credit card numbers on his computers.

Last year, Judge Matz sentenced Wang to 30 months in federal prison and sentenced Shen to 15 months in federal prison for their roles in the counterfeit credit card scheme.

Once they complete their prison sentences, all three defendants are subject to deportation. Zhang is currently in the United States on a student visa; Wang is a permanent resident; and Shen is an illegal alien who overstayed a visa allowing her to be in the United States.

This case is the product of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California

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