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Press Release

Defendants Sentenced in a $217,200 Gift Card Conspiracy and Wire Fraud Scheme that Cheated Victims, Including the Elderly, Out of Thousands of Dollars

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

Salt Lake City, Utah – Two foreign nationals, were sentenced today after pleading guilty to their participation in a wire fraud scheme, where victims were deceived into purchasing prepaid gift cards and providing that information to the defendants for their own personal gain.

Chaohui Chen, 46, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment followed by 36 months supervised release and ordered to pay $217,200.00 in restitution. Wenyi Zheng, 46, was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment followed by 36 months supervised release and ordered to pay $217,200.00 in restitution.

According to court documents, in June 2019, Chen and Zheng were involved in a Walmart gift card conspiracy and wire fraud scheme within the District of Utah and elsewhere. The purpose of the scheme was to defraud individuals and obtain money and property for the personal gain of the defendants and others. According to the plea statement, a typical execution of the scheme involved unnamed third parties who would make false and fraudulent telephone calls, sometimes claiming to the victims they were part of the Social Security Administration. Using false pretenses, the callers would convince victims to purchase prepaid gift cards and provide to them the 16-digit gift card numbers and unique pins for the gift cards, in return for a cashier’s check in the amount of the gift card purchased. Once in control of the gift cards, Chen and Zheng would redeem the gift cards at various stores by purchasing household items and additional prepaid gift cards, which they would convert and use for their own personal gain, and neglect to return any of the money to the victims. Throughout the scheme, the defendants used or caused another to use interstate wire communications facilities for the purpose of carrying out the crime.

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate people who prey on vulnerable members of our community,” said United States Attorney Trina A. Higgins. “It is our job to pursue justice for victims, some of whom are elderly and trusted those who committed this crime.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ruth Hackford-Peer, of the District of Utah prosecuted the case.


Felicia Martinez
Public Affairs Specialist
(801) 325-3237

Updated March 21, 2023

Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 23-19