7,000 Americans defrauded to buy sanitizers from Vietnam

By Minh Nga   August 18, 2020 | 12:12 am PT
7,000 Americans defrauded to buy sanitizers from Vietnam
A store worker offers hand sanitizer to shoppers, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, as they wait in line on the sidewalk outside a grocery store in Washington, U.S., April 14, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst.
Vietnam has arrested four citizens over a wire fraud which saw 7,000 Americans pay nearly $1 million for their sanitizers.

The arrests were made following cooperation between the U.S. Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security, the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City stated Tuesday.

Major General To An Xo, spokesman of the public security ministry, said on the same day that four men Nguyen Duy Toan, Tran Quoc Khanh, Phan Dinh Thu and Do Chi Huy were arrested in Hanoi on July 11 for appropriating others' property using eletronics and telecommunications measures.

The four and at least three other people have engaged in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Investigation found the group had bought over 300 domains to set up 110 shopping websites that fraudulently offered for sale products made scarce by the pandemic, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, Xo said.

The U.S. Consulate General said 7,000 victims in all 50 states had paid for items supposedly sold through the websites but never received the products. They filed complaints in March.

The complaint alleges the Vietnamese set up hundreds of email and user accounts with a U.S.-based payment processor to carry out the scheme and keep it hidden from law enforcement.

They are also alleged to have listed misleading contact addresses and phone numbers on the websites, causing unaffiliated individuals and businesses in the U.S. to receive numerous complaint calls from victims who had been defrauded.

HSI investigators identified nearly 40,000 fraudulent transactions worth approximately $975,000.

U.S. Ambassador Daniel J. Kritenbrink said: "The arrest of multiple suspects by Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security clearly demonstrates Vietnam’s government takes Covid-19 related crimes seriously."

This fraud had caused significant financial losses to those already facing enormous challenges due to the pandemic, he said.

The U.S. still leads the world in the number of Covid-19 cases and fatalities, with more than 5.6 million infections and over 173,600 deaths.

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