By Rich Bockmann
A former Bayside resident was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for running a credit card scam that defrauded financial institutions of more than $200,000.
Zhao Guang Ming, a 35-year-old Chinese citizen, was sentenced in federal court in Hartford last Thursday by District Judge Robert Chatigny and ordered to pay restitution for the scam that began with an ad placed in the World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper based in College Point.
According to the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, Ming placed an ad in the credit section of the newspaper, offering to help individuals obtain money from their bank or credit card accounts.
The ad in Chinese characters read, “Cash can be obtained from any bank or credit card account. I have five years’ experience. Best in America. Secrecy assured. — Mr. Zhang” with a telephone number.
In July last year, an individual working with law enforcement responded to the ad, and Ming confirmed that he would be able to assist the individual in obtaining a cash advance from a credit card account that had charged up to its limit, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Later in the month, Ming and the individual met at the MGM Grand Casino in Foxwoods, Conn., where the individual provided Ming with a maxed-out credit card and driver’s license, according to prosecutors.
Ming then wired $15,706 to the individual’s credit card account from an account at TD Bank that Ming knew had insufficient funds, and the money made it appear that the credit card account balance had been paid and money was available for cash advances, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
A few days later, Ming and the individual met again at the MGM Grand, and over the course of five hours Ming directed the individual to obtain three cash advances from the credit card account in the amounts of $4,800, $4,700 and $2,800, of which Ming collected a percentage as a fee, prosecutors said. Ming was arrested later in the day.
In February, Ming pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he had helped at least 25 individuals in obtaining fraudulent cash advances using this scheme and that he defrauded several financial institutions of at least $227,597, according to the U.S. attorney.
Ming also admitted that he used the credit card account to make two payments, one to the World Journal in the amount of $1,255 and another to Countrywide Insurance for $1,000, prosecutors said.
Ming was ordered to pay a total of $229,852.66 in restitution, the U.S. attorney said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.