Chinese Nationals Suspected in Sophisticated Gift Card Theft Ring in Southern California

Chinese Nationals Suspected in Sophisticated Gift Card Theft Ring in Southern California

Gift cards are displayed at a Target store in New York on Dec. 21, 2023. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 5/20/2024


Two Chinese nationals were arrested during a retail theft sting operation and accused of stealing gift cards in Ventura County May 10, according to the county sheriff’s office.
Detectives with the Ventura County Organized Retail Theft Task Force arrested Tingxiang Yang, 39, and Lingyu Chen, 35, at a Target store on the 800 block of New Los Angeles Avenue in Moorpark, located about 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The task force was conducting an operation at the store when two men were allegedly seen removing bulk quantities of gift cards from a display and putting them in bags.
The suspects were arrested in the store’s parking lot.
Detectives allege Mr. Yang and Mr. Chen had about 800 stolen gift cards with them when they were detained. The gift cards were allegedly taken from the Target and other retail stores, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities say the thefts could be linked to an organized theft tactic called “card draining.” With such, thieves steal gift cards from store displays, open them at a separate location, and record the card and personal identification numbers associated with them.
The thieves then return the cards to the store, and put them back on the gift card rack. When a customer buys and loads money onto the card, thieves can then access the card online and steal the balance, according to the sheriff’s department.
“These types of thefts have already led to millions of dollars in losses around the nation to victims who unknowingly bought the compromised gift cards,” the sheriff’s department reported.
Mr. Yang and Mr. Chen face felony charges of conspiracy to commit organized retail theft. They were booked into the pre-trial detention facility in the City of Ventura and were released after posting $20,000 bail. They are scheduled for preliminary court hearings May 24, according to inmate records.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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