NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that RICHARD YUAN LI, age 20, a resident of Hercules, California, was charged on June 8, 2020 in the Eastern District of Louisiana in a one-count Bill of Information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1343, for his role in a SIM Swap scam that targeted at least twenty people, including a New Orleans-area physician.
According to the Bill of Information, a SIM Swap scam is a cellular phone account takeover fraud that results in the routing of a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. Once a perpetrator is able to swap the SIM card, it is likely he is able to obtain access to a victim’s various personal accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, as well as any other accounts that use two-factor authentication.
LI participated in a scheme that involved multiple parts. First, in January 2018, they defrauded Apple, Inc. into providing a second Apple iPhone without paying for it by convincing an Apple customer service representative that they had not received an Apple iPhone 8 they ordered (hereinafter “the Apple iPhone 8”). LI took possession of the Apple iPhone 8. He and his co-conspirators then arranged for victims’ telephone numbers to be swapped to SIM cards contained in cellular phones in their possession, including the Apple iPhone 8. Specifically, on November 10, 2018, Victim A’s telephone number was swapped to a SIM card contained in the Apple iPhone 8, which LI kept in his dorm room in the San Diego, California area. The SIM swap caused the transmission of a series of writings, signs, signals, and sounds that traveled in interstate commerce, including between the States of Florida, Louisiana, and California. Thereafter, LI and his co-conspirators gained access to Victim A’s email accounts and cryptocurrency accounts as a result of the SIM Swap and stole a significant portion of Victim A’s cryptocurrency. In total, between October 11, 2018, and December 6, 2018, LI participated in unauthorized SIM Swaps with his co-conspirators that targeted at least twenty victims.
If convicted, LI faces a maximum term of five (5) years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000.00, up to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment per count.
U. S. Attorney Strasser reiterated that a Bill of Information is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, supervisor of the Public Corruption Unit, is in charge of the prosecution.