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California attorney general busts alleged stolen smartphone ring

March 12, 2013|By Marc Lifsher
  • California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris gestures during a news conference last month in San Francisco. Harris Tuesday announced charges in a multimillion-dollar stolen smartphone ring.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris gestures during a news conference… (Ben Margot / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO -- State electronic-crime investigators have arrested two Sacramento men and charged them with the fraudulent purchase of large quantities of smartphones for resale in Hong Kong.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris announced Tuesday the arrest of Shou Lin Wen, 39, and Yuting Tan, 27, both of Sacramento, following a six-month, multi-state investigation of alleged stolen smartphones.

According to court documents, the scheme involved the dispatching of homeless people to purchase up to five smartphones at subsidized prices from wireless dealers as part of a contract for cellphone service.

The straw buyers were paid a nominal fee for turning the phones over to Shou and Yuting. The two men allegedly consolidated the Sacramento phones with other Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxies and Blackberries sent from other states and shipped them to Asia, where they were sold for as much as $2,000 a piece.

The alleged fraud netted close to $4 million over a recent eight-month period, the attorney general's office said.

"This international theft ring used fraud and deceit to steal smart phones and exploit the homeless," Harris said in a statement.

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