Four accused in Missouri of a nationwide financial scam targeting the elderly

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Four men from California have been indicted in connection with a nationwide tech support fraud scam targeting the elderly.

Liang Jin, 24, of Walnut, Tsz Yin Kan, 41, of Chino Hills, and Kaiyu Wen, 25, of Irvine, were added Wednesday to an existing indictment against Yu-Chieh Huang, 22, of Chino Hills, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis last year. Jin, Wen, and Huang face one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail, bank, and wire fraud and multiple counts of wire fraud. Kan faces one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail, bank, and wire fraud.

Huang has been in custody since August, when he was arrested after arriving to pick up $88,000 from an elderly Missouri couple and was accused of being a courier for the scammers, charging documents say. After investigators began seizing funds from bank accounts associated with Jin, he purchased a one-way flight to China, charging documents say. He was arrested at the airport before his flight. Kan has also been arrested. Wen is still being sought by authorities. Anyone with information is asked to call Homeland Security Investigations at 866-347-2423 or report tips online at this link.

“We’ve recently seen more scams employ couriers to pick up money from victims,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming. “This is just one of the warning signs of a scam. I strongly encourage people to be cautious when approached online or in person with demands for money and spread to the word to your friends and family to be vigilant about online scams.”

The investigation began in August after a 78-year-old Missouri man responded to a pop-up message claiming his computer was infected with a virus. The victim and his 76-year-old wife were falsely told that their banking information had been compromised because someone had been accessing child pornography through the computer. To escape criminal prosecution, they were told they had to pay $88,000. 

Scammers often initiate contact with phone calls, emails, or pop-up messages on the target’s computer. They pretend to be tech support workers who will troubleshoot problems if given access to that computer or if paid a fee. Other times they claim the computer contains evidence of a crime and the victims will have to pay a fee to avoid prosecution.

Following instructions in a series of text messages, the Missouri couple gathered the money, took photos of it, and sealed it in a cardboard box. They were told to wait for a courier but became suspicious and balked when the courier arrived. They called the police, and the courier was arrested. 

The man accused of being that courier, Yu-Chieh Huang, 22, was charged by complaint on August 11 and indicted on September 6. Charging documents say that he was paid $500 to $1,000 to pick up cash from victims using a counterfeit passport and fraudulently obtained a debit card to deposit it into a bank. The charging documents say he withdrew money in cashier’s checks to send to co-conspirators. Huang picked up $40,000 in Colorado and $40,000 in Oregon before coming to Missouri, the documents allege.

Huang, a college student from Taiwan, has pleaded not guilty.

Investigators then learned of the role of Jin, Wen, and Kan, according to the criminal complaint and Wednesday’s indictment. Jin and Wen provided couriers with assignments and instructions, charging documents say, with Jin paying the courier salaries. Kan recruited college students to fraudulently open financial accounts using the names and passports of citizens of Taiwan, the charging documents say.

About $7 million in cashier’s checks were deposited into one bank account between March 2020 and July 2023, charging documents say, including a $170,000 check Kan deposited into a Missouri bank on June 29, 2022, the documents say. Huang conducted approximately $4 million in currency transactions during 2021 and Jin conducted over $5.7 million in currency transactions between June 2021 and September 2023.

Jin was admitted to the United States as a nonimmigrant student visa holder from China on Feb. 2, 2020, but is considered to have overstayed his visa. 

Wen was admitted to the United States as a nonimmigrant student visa holder from China on March 6, 2020. He was terminated from the educational program when he failed to enroll and has overstayed his visa.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $6.8 million investigators identified in a series of financial accounts.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or both prison and a fine. Each wire fraud charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. If convicted, restitution would be mandatory.

Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy Berry and Kyle Bateman are prosecuting the case.

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