Owings Mills Man Sentenced For Role In $561k Gift Card Scam


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OWINGS MILLS - An Owings Mills man was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Wednesday for his role in an elaborate gift card scheme that defrauded more than ten victims out of $561,000.

Yong Chen, 34, of Owings Mills, will serve three years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and has been ordered to pay $169,950 in restitution.

According to his plea agreement, Chen orchestrated a scam in which gift cards were fraudulently obtained from retail stores and subsequently used to buy high-end electronics. The items, including cell phones, iPads, and laptop computers, were then intended for sale to foreign buyers.

One prominent victim of the scheme, identified in the plea deal as R.E.S., fell for an email phish claiming to be a technical support service renewal. Chen and his associates then accessed his computer, manipulated his bank accounts, and deceived him into buying gift cards to reimburse an apparent overpayment.

Investigations led by the Maryland State Police Computer Crimes Unit found that the gift card numbers and access codes purchased by R.E.S. were used on the same day at multiple Target stores in two states.

Chen and co-conspirator Bin Tang were identified through transactional records and video footage, as they used the stolen gift cards to buy Apple products.

A subsequent search at Chen's Owings Mills home recovered four boxes of brand-new high-end electronics and a ledger recording the fraudulent gift card transactions.

According to the State's Attorney's Office, Chen's scheme involved buying the stolen gift card numbers and access codes through a Chinese messaging platform at a reduced cost.

This information was then shared with others, referred to as "runners," who made purchases at various Target stores, often in different states, to avoid detection by any purchase limit enforcement.

Co-defendants Liang Liang Zeng and Wen Fu Zeng of New York were also sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the scheme. According to the State's Attorney's Office, Bin Tang, another co-conspirator, remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Barron praised the Maryland State Police and TIGTA for their diligent work in the investigation, expressing gratitude for Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Clarke, who prosecuted the case.

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