Officers with the Saratoga Springs Police Department took two California men into custody Wednesday evening after the pair were allegedly involved in an “intricate and complex” fraud ring, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.
Detectives were contacted by loss prevention officers from the Saratoga Springs Walmart location on Monday. Authorities were told the employees had witnessed at least one man — later identified as 24-year-old Yong Sun of Temple City, California — enter the store to purchase several gift cards.
Loss prevention employees also told police another man, 31-year-old Lin Lu of Santa Rosa, California, also matched the description of a suspicious man who had been reported at a Walmart location in South Jordan just a few days prior, according to arrest documents.
South Jordan loss prevention employees reported two men purchasing multiple gift cards on July 17. At that time, a store manager approached the two and requested they complete their transaction at a different register so they could be helped by a cashier.
During the transactions, loss prevention employees at South Jordan reported the two men were using gift card codes off their cellphones to purchase additional gift cards. According to the probable cause affidavit, the store manager confronted the two men before they fled from the store.
Amid the confusion, the two men left all of their newly purchased gift cards at the Walmart location.
When detectives initially arrived at the Saratoga Springs location Monday, they observed Lu walking with loss prevention employees in the front area of the store.
Authorities began speaking with Lu. They allege he was using an almost identical method of operation as previous suspects involved in international fraud. When detectives began to question him, Lu allegedly acted confused and pretended he was unable to speak English.
After some time, Lu began to speak with officers, providing them with four gift cards — with a combined value of $200 — and allegedly said he bought them for personal use while playing video games, according to arrest documents.
While speaking with Lu, police were able to make contact with Sun. They believe he was working with Lu. Sun allegedly told police he had arrived at the Walmart with Lu in a black Jeep and Lu had lied about the gift cards being for personal use because he was scared and afraid.
During an interview, Sun allegedly said he had recruited Lu to travel from California with him to purchase gift cards along the way. He reportedly told police he knew Lu from when they worked together in a restaurant in Arizona and they had both been buying gift cards to make money after they lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities located the black Jeep and obtained a search warrant. During a search of the vehicle, officials found between 1,500 and 2,000 individual gift cards valued between $10 to $50.
According to the probable cause statement, Sun and Lu’s actions match the mode of operating of previous suspects “involved in intricate and complex fraud rings.”
The rings, officials report, are commonly based in China or India and involved various types of scams, on computers and by phone calls, where the victims are blackmailed or fraudulently pressured into purchasing gift cards and giving the cards’ information to people like Sun and Lu.
Then those people launder the gift card money or use it to purchase other gift cards, making it more difficult to trace where the money came from, where it goes or who is committing the fraud.
Sun and Lu were taken into custody under suspicion of second-degree felony money laundering, second-degree felony communications fraud and second-degree felony pattern of unlawful activity.
They are currently being held at the Utah County Jail on $10,010 bail.