California Man Pleads Guilty To Defrauding Victims In IRS Impersonator Scam
United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the guilty plea of YU ZHANG, 27, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. ZHANG, who was initially charged via criminal complaint on June 8, 2018, pleaded guilty yesterday before Senior Judge Ann D. Montgomery in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
According to the ZHANG’s guilty plea, from March 12, 2018, to June 8, 2018, he participated in a scheme to obtain money from victims through which co-conspirators posed as IRS agents and threatened to arrest victims unless immediate payments were made for allegedly “delinquent” taxes.
As part of the scheme, ZHANG’S co-conspirators made phone calls to victims in numerous states across the country and, posing as government agents, employed a number of strategies to threaten or entice the victim into making an immediate payment to a purported governmental entity. Oftentimes, the co-conspirator would pose as an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent and threaten to have the victim arrested unless the victim immediately made payment to satisfy an alleged tax debt.
The victims were instructed to bring funds to a local Target store and purchase a gift card that could be used to satisfy the “debt,” and provide the card number and activation code to the co-conspirator over the phone. The co-conspirators would then send a message to ZHANG containing the gift card numbers and activation codes, so that ZHANG could use that information to redeem the gift cards at Target stores by purchasing pre-paid, third-party gift cards such as Google Play and Steam cards.
To avoid detection, ZHANG would travel to multiple Target stores, including stores in other states, and use the self-checkout registers for his transactions. After purchasing the third-party cards, ZHANG would immediately convey the card numbers and activation codes to others who were involved in the scheme.
In his guilty plea, ZHANG admitted to redeeming more than $250,000 worth of Target gift cards by conducting hundreds of transactions at Target stores in Minnesota and Colorado.
If you believe you may have fallen victim to an IRS impersonation scam, you may file a report with the Target store or other retailer where the gift cards were purchased, the local police department, or TIGTA at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amber M. Brennan is prosecuting the case.
YU ZHANG, 27
Baldwin Park, Calif.
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 1 count
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