Two foreign exchange students from Vietnam are accused of being mules for an international identity theft ring believed to have stolen millions of dollars from online merchants, according to an affidavit filed by federal investigators in Minnesota district court.
The Dec. 29 affidavit sought a search warrant to raid the home of two Vietnamese exchange students attending Minnesota's Winona State University. During the resulting raid, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit seized documents and computer equipment, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.
The Department of Homeland Security affidavit, signed by Daniel Schwarz, claimed the students, Tram Vo and Khoi Van, were money transfer mules and made more than $1.2 million using eBay to sell products purchased with stolen credit card numbers. The affidavit laid out the case for wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering against the students, who have not yet been formally charged, according to public records. The third person living at the house, Vinh Dong, was not named as part of the cyber-crime ring.
DHS' Cyber Crimes Center was already investigating the "underground economy" involving criminal rings based in Vietnam that were committing Internet financial fraud, said Schwarz. The amount of money stolen in this criminal enterprise is "estimated to exceed hundreds of millions of dollars," Schwarz said in the filing.