Timothy Truong, 43, pled guilty in November 2007 to grand theft, admitting he had cloned gift cards to hijack retail store gift card accounts. On Oct. 15, 2008, Truong was sentenced in a Sacramento, Calif., federal court to a maximum of 10 years.
Since 1992, Truong has been accumulating convictions for gift card hijackings in Nevada, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Utah, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Segal.
At the time of his arrest in the Sacramento case, Truong was also facing additional charges related to gift card fraud in New Jersey, Segal said.
Truong shoplifted cards from gift malls in retail stores.
He then captured the card and personal identification numbers on a skimmer - a small electronic device used to swipe and store victims' card numbers - and downloaded the card information onto a computer to manufacture duplicate cards. Truong replaced the cards in the same gift malls after cloning them.
Truong hacked into stores' activation files and, with the stolen data and duplicate cards, accessed account balances post-activation and spent the cards' balances, leaving the consumers who had purchased the tampered cards with no funds remaining on the cards.
In Truong's abandoned vehicle, officers found more than 3,800 gift cards for retail outlets including Safeway Inc., Lowe's Companies Inc., Borders Group and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Authorities also confiscated two laptop computers, an electronic card reader, a card printer, acetone, maps marked with the locations of all the stores from which he stole cards, 4,000 gift card numbers, recently purchased merchandise - and $7,000 in cash.
Truong was reportedly known to retail security personnel. In 2006, police were called in Yuba City, Calif., when Truong was spotted in that city's Wal-Mart.
He was arrested and has been in custody since then.
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