8 March 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A federal grand jury in San Francisco, California, indicted Sun Keung Lee, 44, of Vancouver, Canada, Eva Yok Yau Eng, 54, of Lafayette, California, and Sandy Ru Zhong, 41, of San Lorenzo, California, with conspiring to produce, use, and traffic in counterfeit access devices, the United States Attorney’s Office announced. This prosecution is the culmination of a long-term investigation into an alleged counterfeit credit card ring that resulted in millions of dollars in alleged financial losses to banking institutions between the years 1998 and 2001.
According to the complaint, this investigation in Canada and the United States has identified Lee as the alleged head of a large criminal conspiracy with counterfeit credit card manufacturing and distribution operations dating as far back as 1992 and allegedly operating at various times in the San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Calgary, and Vancouver areas.
U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan said, “Illegal credit card schemes undermine the integrity of our financial and banking institutions. Consumers have the right to expect that their credit card accounts are safe and will not be compromised by individuals who develop illegal schemes for their own financial gain.”
According to Special Agent in Charge Paul Morrissey, San Francisco Field Office, United States Secret Service, “This prosecution stems from an investigation that has charged alleged members of what may be one of the largest counterfeit credit card rings ever discovered in North America.” He added, “I applaud the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement in cracking down on the insidious problems of identity theft and related fraud.”
The counterfeit access devices at issue in this case are principally counterfeit credit cards, which were allegedly manufactured using stolen credit card account numbers. According to the complaint, credit card fraud schemes typically operate in the following manner:
“Various “skimmers” utilize “skimming devices” to collect credit card account numbers at their job locations without authorization. They then forward the devices to various middlemen, who in turn deliver the account numbers to a counterfeit card manufacturer, who sells the finished cards to other middlemen. The manufacturer typically obtains counterfeit credit card stock from a supplier. After the counterfeit credit cards are produced, other middlemen typically sell the counterfeit cards to “shoppers,” who use the cards to make fraudulent purchases at various retail outlets or on the internet. At times, the middlemen also provide shoppers with fraudulent pieces of identification that complement the counterfeit credit cards.”
According to the complaint, in December 1998, officers of the Oakland Police Department, while investigating the shooting of Lee by unknown assailants, discovered inside an Oakland apartment owned by Zhong, evidence of a counterfeit credit card operation. The search resulted in the seizure of computer equipment and materials allegedly used to make counterfeit credit cards, including numerous sheets of paper with what appeared to be misappropriated credit card account information and directions on how to utilize the equipment to encode account information on unembossed cards. Later, in January 2001, Canadian investigators raided a complete counterfeit credit manufacturing plant in Vancouver, British Columbia, allegedly tied to Lee and Zhong. Among the items discovered during the raid were thousands of counterfeit credit cards and misappropriated credit card account numbers.
Lee is currently a fugitive. Zhong was released on $500,000 bond, and Eng was released on $150,000 bond. The Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel is the U.S. District Court Judge assigned to the case.
The maximum statutory penalty for the offense of conspiracy to produce, use, and traffic in counterfeit access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2), is 5 years imprisonment, a 3 year term of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, a $100 mandatory special assessment, and restitution to the victimized financial institutions. An indictment only contains allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Sun Keung Lee, Eva Yok Yau Eng, and Sandy Ru Zhong must be presumed innocent unless and until convicted.
This case is the result of a long-term historical and proactive investigation, which was led by investigators with the United States Secret Service, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Oakland Police Department, the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia, and Canada Customs. Edward Torpoco is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release and related court filings may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can . Related court documents and information may be found on the U.S. District Court website at www.cand.uscourts.gov or on .
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at [email protected] .