At a trial on April 14, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court found Wu Tung I, 42, and his 30-year-old Vietnamese wife Vo Ngoc Bich Hien guilty of fraud. Hien was sentenced to 13 years.
Their seven accomplices received jail terms between 11 months and eight years, including Ho Nhat Khanh, who got the longest term.
According to the indictment, Wu and his wife spent VND2 million (US$93) to buy a large number of ATM cards from Khanh. Khanh told the court that he bought the cards from the defendants, who in turn had bought them from others.
After that, they called the victims on the phone, pretending to be investigators by using a hi-tech equipment to change the displayed phone numbers into those of the authorities.
They accused the victims of being involved in a money laundering case, and then threatened them to transfer money to the accounts linked to the ATM cards for investigation.
A total of 33 victims have transferred nearly VND7 billion (US$326,150) to them between November 2013 and March 2014.
In one of the cases, on March 10, 2014 Hien called a woman, identified only as C. She impersonated an employee of the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) and asked C to pay a telephone bill of VND9 million.
Hien then transferred the call to one of her accomplices, who claimed that he was a Hanoi police officer and that C was being investigated for money laundering.
He ordered her to transfer all the money in her saving account at a bank, around VND569 million, to “a police account” for investigation. He also promised a refund within 24 hours if she was found innocent.
C. reported to the police after the money was not returned to her.
Subsequent investigations led to the arrest of Khanh, Wu, Hien and other accomplices.
Investigators also found Wu was being wanted by Taiwanese police on drug smuggling charges.