GUILTY: Gift Card Money Laundering Scheme Unravels

( – Three more people in Los Angeles were just convicted of participating in a massive money laundering scheme using gift cards.

The Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs put out a press release on September 28 confirming that Bowen Hu (26), Tairan Shi (27), and Blade Bai (33), have been convicted of money laundering by a jury in LA. The trio are charged specifically with conspiring to launder money collected from a wire fraud scheme using over $5,000 in gift cards from Target.

Money laundering is a felony offense. For each count, Hu, Shi, and Bai could face a maximum of 20 years behind bars in federal prison

There was also a fourth co-conspirator: 58-year-old Yan Fu, a Chinese national. Fu pleaded guilty and received a 20-month sentence in federal prison. He was also ordered by the judge to pay a restitution of $48,073.

The four cooperated with telephone scammers working overseas to trick victims, specifically older adults and seniors, into purchasing gift cards by providing credit card or banking information over the phone. One of the groups was based in China and went by the name Magic Lamp. The group used the messaging app WeChat to sell gift cards to victims.

The culprits then used cards purchased by people they scammed to buy products, other gift cards, and other items. Fu, who was one of the runners, went to 17 different stores on one occasion to make such purchases. The products were then resold by Bai and some of the profits went to pay off Magic Lamp.

The Justice Department statement said that the purchases at multiple Target stores were used by the four criminals “to conceal the fact that the gift cards” were “funded with fraudulent proceeds.” The accused are estimated to have laundered over $2.5 million between 2019 and 2020, in a period of about 17 months.

Hu, Shi, and Bai are scheduled for a sentencing hearing on January 26.

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