US phisher who hit 38,500 gets long prison sentence

The California man is sentenced to more than 12 years in prison

A California man was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison Thursday for his role as the brains behind a widespread phishing scam that took in more than 38,000 victims.

That Tien Truong Nguyen, 34, worked with Romanian scammers to drive users to websites that were set up to look up like they belonged to legitimate financial institutions. After victims entered their information on the sites, Nguyen sold the data to two alleged co-conspirators, Stefani Ruland and Ryan Price, who used the information to set up lines of credit -- typically between US$1,000 and $2,000 -- at instant credit kiosks at Wal-Mart stores.

They used those lines, as well as fake credit cards made using the stolen data, to purchase products from Wal-Mart, which they then sold for cash.

Prosecutors say Ruland and Price stole nearly $193,000 in less than two months by hitting Wal-Mart stores throughout California. They have both been sentenced to prison in connection with the fraud, according to Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

When police arrested Nguyen in January 2007, they found stolen information, including bank and credit card numbers, belonging to 38,500 victims.

They also found 20 Web templates used to make fake sites for businesses such as eBay and local banks, including Florida's Fairwinds Credit Union and Washington's Heritage Bank.

In court filings, prosecutors said Nguyen, who went by the name Tim, got involved in phishing because it was easy money. He told investigators that "he wanted to quit identity theft, but resumed it if he was smoking methamphetamine; and that the drug gave him the drive to do identity theft," prosecutors said.

In a sentencing memorandum, Nguyen's lawyers said his drug problems started at age 15 and that, despite previous criminal convictions, he had turned his life around since his arrest. Nguyen immigrated to the U.S. at age 3 but could face deportation as a result of his conviction, his lawyers wrote.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Morrison England, Jr., apparently did not buy that argument. He sentenced Nguyen to 12 years and seven months on fraud and hacking charges, and for being a felon in possession of a Remington 12-gauge shotgun.

Nguyen couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cybercrimeinternetlegalscamsU.S. Department of Justice

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Exec

Budget

TerraCycle Zero Waste Box Pens and Markers Small

Learn more >

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?