‘Intermediaries’ charged in international scam

Washington County
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Five “criminal intermediaries” face felony charges in what authorities described as an international scam involving gift cards largely used Portland metro area.

On May 14, Tigard police with federal and local law enforcement used search warrants at 6 different locations in Beaverton, Oregon City and Portland after an investigation into out-of-country scammers using the intermediaries to get and use the gift cards.

How the scam worked

A fraudster contacted a victim about some kind of emergency — Social Security, jury duty, IRS troubles, computer support — and demanded payment by gift card to alleviate the emergency. The victim then relayed the card number by phone, email or text — and by the time they realized they were defrauded, the gift card balance was gone.

The “intermediaries” would then use the stolen Apple gift cards on bulk buys of iPhones and other products, then ship them out of the country.

Investigators worked with Apple and federal agents and learned the scam originated outside of the United States and used people in the area to carry it out. During the search of the 6 locations, more than 300 devices — Apple watches, iPhones, AirPods, iPads — were found and seized.

The 5 people arrested are: Ying Zhang, 26; Yiran Liang, 29; Gongchao Liu, 23; Can Wu, 24; and Yu Sun Johnson, 26. 

Johnson is charged with a felony computer crime. All the others are charged with felonies for 1st-degree theft and computer crime.

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