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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

Friday, February 1, 2013

Maryland Resident Pleads Guilty in Credit Card Fraud Scheme Involving over 50 Victims

Skimmed Data from Retail Customers’ Credit Cards Where He Worked

Baltimore, Maryland - Tri Tran, a/k/a “Tony,” age 35, a citizen of Vietnam unlawfully in the country and residing in Maryland, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud in connection with a scheme to skim credit card account data and re-encoding the data onto different credit cards used to buy merchandise at retail stores.

The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Special Agent in Charge Robert Jasinski of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane; and Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly.

According to his plea, beginning in 2009 through February 28, 2011, co-conspirator Nghia Nguyen, a Vietnamese citizen residing in Santa Ana, California, mailed an electronic skimming device to Tran in Maryland who used the device at the business where he was employed to access data from customer credit cards. During 2009, Tran mailed Nguyen the skimming device approximately twice a month, typically when the data of five to 15 credit cards was stored on the skimmer. This pace picked up slightly in 2010, and in 2011 there were about four to five exchanges prior to his arrest. Tran would also mail several credit cards bearing his name to Nguyen.

Nguyen would then extract the data from the skimmer and re-encode the magnetic strip of the other cards with the victims’ data. Nguyen would then send Tran three or four re-encoded cards in return, and Tran would use these cards, typically for one or two transactions at about $200 per transaction before the accounts were shut down. This process was repeated several times over the course of the scheme.

On January 14, 2011, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office began investigating a complaint related to credit card skimming activity at the retail location where Tran worked. Tran’s residence was searched on February 28, 2011. Computer equipment and peripheral devices used in the creation of the fraudulent credit cards were seized.

As a result of the scheme, over 50 victims incurred losses totaling over $70,000.

Tran faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for mail fraud. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar scheduled sentencing for May 24, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

Nghia Nguyen, age 35, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme and was sentenced on December 17, 2012 to six years in prison.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked HSI Baltimore, USSS, Harford County Sheriff’s Office and the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the case. Mr. Rosenstein also recognized HSI Orange County, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Postal Inspection Service in California, City of Orange Police Department, Costa Mesa Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for their assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who is prosecuting the case.

Updated January 26, 2015