Two Chinese nationals arrested for allegedly running sophisticated gift card fraud

Ventura County detectives and the area's Retail Theft Task Force arrested two Chinese nationals suspected of committing a sophisticated gift card scam.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office said deputies arrested two men during a “blitz” operation in Moorpark on Friday. A “blitz” operation has involved plainclothes detectives and uniformed officers working with shop loss prevention officers to arrest shoplifters and shut down organized crime gangs.

The task force was monitoring a large retail store in the 800 block of New Los Angeles Boulevard when security at the store alerted them that two men had stolen a large number of gift cards from the shelves and stuffed them into bags. Police arrested the two men shortly after they left the store.

Detectives said they arrested Tingxiang Yang, 39, and Lingyu Chen, 35, with about 800 gift cards that were allegedly stolen from the Moorpark store and other retail outlets. Investigators linked the thefts to an organized theft strategy known as “card drain.” In these scams, thieves steal gift cards from stores, open them, record the card number and PIN, or replace the barcode.

They then return to the store with the newly packaged cards and place them back on the shelf. When customers purchased the card and deposited funds into it, the suspects accessed the account and drained it.

Young and Chen were arrested on felony conspiracy to commit organized retail theft charges and booked into the Ventura jail. They were released on bail and are expected to appear in Ventura County Superior Court on May 24.

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