Three more Californians indicted in St. Louis court for scamming elderly victims nationwide


St. Louis, Missouri – Three Californians were recently added to a federal indictment for their alleged involvement in a sophisticated fraud scheme that exploited elderly victims across the country. The scheme utilized fraudulent bank accounts, Taiwanese passports, and “money mules” to perpetrate various scams. This update brings the total number of accused individuals to seven, highlighting an extensive network that aimed to defraud vulnerable populations.

Details of the Fraud Operation

The latest individuals to be indicted include Bowen Chen, 21, of Monterey Park, Jiacheng Chen, 19, of East San Gabriel, and Vianne Chen, 41, known as Tingting T. Chen, from California. They were formally charged on May 8 in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, where they joined four other Californians previously indicted. These include Liang Jin, 24, of Walnut, Tsz Yin Kan, 41, of Chino Hills, Kaiyu Wen, 25, of Irvine, and Yu-Chieh Huang, 22, of Chino Hills, who face charges of conspiracy to commit mail, bank, and wire fraud.

The indictment details how Tsz Yin Kan allegedly established USA You Yi Sheng Inc., an entity purporting to be an education service business in California. Kan is accused of producing fraudulent immigration documents, specifically the Form I-20, or “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” Using these counterfeit forms along with Taiwanese passports, Vianne Chen, a bank employee, along Kan and others, reportedly opened numerous student checking accounts.

Check also: Bank fraud in Missouri leads to guilty plea and forfeiture of over $1.5 million

The Role of Money Mules in the Scheme

This case is part of the broader Money Mule Initiative, a focused effort by law enforcement to combat the financial infrastructure that supports global fraud operations. Money mules are critical to fraudsters, helping to launder proceeds from a variety of scams, including lottery fraud, romance scams, grandparent scams, and schemes targeting government pandemic funds. Over the past year, law enforcement actions have disrupted the activities of over 3,000 money mules through measures ranging from criminal prosecutions to preventive outreach.

In the specific scheme linked to the accused, other scammers engaged in tech support fraud, romance fraud, and imposter schemes. They manipulated victims into handing over large sums of money, which were then funneled through money mules like Huang. Couriers converted the collected cash into cashier’s checks and deposited them into a bank account that accumulated over $7 million, according to the indictment. Of that amount, Bowen Chen is alleged to have deposited $1.3 million, Jiacheng Chen around $615,000, and Kan about $440,000.

A Case Highlight from Missouri

The severity of these scams was underscored by an incident in Missouri, where an elderly man received a pop-up ad warning that his computer was infected. Following this, he and his wife were deceitfully informed that their computer had been used to access child pornography and that they needed to pay $88,000 to avoid prosecution. The couple became suspicious and contacted the authorities, leading to Huang’s arrest.

Check also: Jury convicts St. Louis man for series of armed robberies at local restaurants

Legal Proceedings and Support for Victims

While an indictment only contains charges, it is crucial to remember that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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

Elderly individuals or those aware of seniors who might be victims of financial fraud are encouraged to contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311) for support and assistance. This hotline is available from Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., providing crucial resources to help navigate the aftermath of financial scams.

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