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Press Release

Three Los Angeles County Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Laundering Gift Cards Purchased by Victims of Telephone Scams

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – An El Monte man and two Chinese nationals living elsewhere in Los Angeles County were sentenced today to terms in federal prison for laundering gift cards purchased by telephone-scam fraud victims at Target stores across the United States.

Blade Bai, 35, of El Monte; Bowen Hu, 28, of Hacienda Heights; and Tairan Shi, 29, of Diamond Bar; were sentenced to terms of 15 years, 10 years, and eight years in federal prison, respectively.

United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. also ordered the defendants to pay restitution in the amounts of $97,815 for Bai, $57,156 for Hu, and $39,416 for Shi.

Bai has been in federal custody since February 2022. Hu and Shi were remanded into custody after the guilty verdicts against them were read in September 2023.

“These defendants were part of a sophisticated, transnational fraud operation that targeted mostly older adults to cheat them out of their savings,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada of the Central District of California. “Protecting our most vulnerable community members is critically important, and we will hold accountable those who reach into our country to engage in these sorts of egregious fraud schemes.”

The defendants were part of a network of individuals who laundered proceeds of fraud stored on Target gift cards. Telephone scammers fraudulently induced victims across the country to buy gift cards, often $500 each, and to provide the card numbers and access codes to the scammers. The scammers included government imposters falsely claiming to be police and other government personnel and retail and tech support impersonators falsely offering to fix nonexistent issues with the victims’ online account or computer.

The defendants acquired more than 5,000 gift card numbers and access codes from a group in the People’s Republic of China calling itself the “Magic Lamp,” and funneled the gift cards to “runners” to liquidate at Target stores in Southern California.  Those runners, at the defendants’ direction, would quickly use the cards to purchase high-value consumer electronics and conduct other transactions. The rapid transactions prevented victims from recouping the value on the cards when they contacted Target to report the scam.

At the conclusion of a 10-day trial in September 2023, a jury found the defendants guilty of a money laundering conspiracy that spanned from approximately June 2019 to November 2020. The jury also found Bai guilty of a second money laundering conspiracy, in which he enlisted an associate to help sell a batch of gift cards with fraudulent proceeds after his initial arrest in the case. One of the defendants’ main “runners,” Yan Fu, 61, of Chino Hills, pled guilty and was previously sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

“Transnational fraud schemes typically rely on complicated networks designed to launder victim proceeds,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This case is a testament to the commitment of the department and our partners to ensuring that all those who knowingly facilitate fraud face justice.”

“The FBI and its partners are committed to going after networks that perpetuate fraud even when they are targeting the American people from thousands of miles away and over the phone,” said Executive Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch. “Today’s sentencing should make it known to individuals that participate in this sort of illegal activity that they can expect to face the consequences of their actions.”

“HSI Los Angeles’ El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force will continue to aggressively target greedy criminals and organizations that seek to line their pockets by defrauding unsuspecting victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang for HSI Los Angeles. “The defendants’ desire for easy money will lead to them doing hard time.”

The Los Angeles Field Offices of Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI investigated the case, with assistance from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General and numerous local police departments across the United States, including the Brea Police Department, the La Palma Police Department, and the Menifee Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorney Monica E. Tait of the Major Frauds Section and Trial Attorneys Wei Xiang and Meredith B. Healy of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated March 26, 2024

Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-066