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SALT LAKE CITY — Two Chinese citizens were arrested for fraud on Thursday in American Fork after Walmart loss prevention employees identified the individuals as being part of a criminal organization, according to police.
Shuyan Wang, 33, was arrested on investigation of money laundering, pattern of unlawful activity, and 11 counts of unlawful use of a financial transaction card, all felonies.
Junliang Tang, 35, was arrested on investigation of money laundering, obstruction of justice, and pattern of unlawful activity, all felonies.
The pair was identified by Walmart officials as members of a Chinese criminal organization that has allegedly used fraudulent credit card information obtained through phishing scams, according to a probable cause statement filed in Utah County’s 4th District Court.
Once credit card information was obtained, the organization would then allegedly use it to buy massive amounts of gift cards and resell them for profit, according to court documents.
The credit card phishing schemes primarily target the elderly, according to police.
Walmart officials “used surveillance and membership information” to identify the pair, according to the statement.
Walmart officials told police the organization began its scam in October, and it has cost the company about $600,000.
The organization has allegedly committed fraud at multiple Walmart locations across the U.S., mainly in the Midwest.
On Thursday, Wang purchased thousands of dollars worth of gift cards using her phone at a self-checkout register at the American Fork Walmart, according to the probable cause statement.
Police found a vehicle that matched the description given by Walmart employees as being linked to the fraudulent organization.
Officers waited at the vehicle for Wang and handcuffed her after finding several bags of gift cards on her, the affidavit states.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers located hundreds more gift cards in the vehicle from different Walmart locations, including Cedar Hills, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Draper, Sandy and South Jordan.
The woman purchased $8,400 in gift cards from the American Fork Walmart alone, using an estimated 11 victims' credit card information from across the country, according to investigators.
Walmart employees checked the transactions made from stores and estimated the loss to be $25,000 in Utah County alone.
Wang’s alleged accomplice was identified as Tang, who was arrested at the Saratoga Springs Walmart.
The pair both arrived in the U.S. on travel visas on Dec. 18.
In a police interview, Tang “admitted to working and traveling with (Wang) on the same day,” a probable cause statement reads.
Contributing: Scott Bigger, KSL