Chinese National Pleads Guilty in Money Laundering Scheme
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia:
ATLANTA - Jianjie Liu has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Liu was charged in an 11-count indictment with money laundering conspiracy, nine counts of money laundering, and access device fraud. These charges stemmed from Liu’s role receiving money from victims of various telephone scams.
“Liu laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from schemes that bilked elderly victims,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Telephone scams regularly victimize the elderly and Liu played a pivotal role, receiving money directly from the victims.”
“This guilty plea demonstrates that my office will continue to pursue perpetrators of these malicious Social Security-related scams that prey upon unsuspecting people, especially the elderly, to deprive them of their assets and resources,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I thank the Duluth Police Department for their assistance in this investigation and I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”
According to U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: in October 2019, Liu was arrested at a Walmart in Duluth, Georgia after she tried to purchase a suspicious number of gift cards. A search of her car found over 700 blank gift cards. A search of her phone revealed victim information. When contacted, the victims, most of whom were elderly, all reported that they had been victims of various telephone scams.
For example, an 89-year-old priest in Minnesota was victimized when a scammer, posing as an employee of an internet security company, offered him a $555 rebate. In order to get the rebate, the priest provided access to his bank account. The scammer pretended to mistakenly deposit $20,555 into the priest’s account. He asked the priest to return $20,000 by sending a $20,000 check to a bank account that Liu controlled.
In another scam, a 73-year-old woman in Washington was victimized when a scammer posing as a Facebook friend sent her a message telling her that she may qualify for a $150,000 government grant. The fake “friend” put her in touch with a scammer posing as a government agent. The purported ‘government agent’ advised the victim that she could only get the grant after she paid various fees. The victim sent three checks for $2,500, $4,000, and $4,500 to various addresses in the United States. She then purchased a $1,000 gift card and provided the PIN and access information to the fictitious government agent. The same day, Liu used the information from the gift card to purchase other gift cards in Louisiana.
In yet another scam, a 78-year-old man in South Carolina, was scammed when he received a call from someone claiming to be a police officer. The fictitious police officer told the victim that his grandson had been arrested and needed $9,000 in bail money. The victim sent a check for $9,000 to an address in Las Vegas. Later, the scammer called back and told him that his grandson had injured a police officer and the victim needed to pay the officer’s hospital bill. The victim then sent $5,000 to an account that Liu controlled.
The victims who sent Liu money lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Liu personally received over $150,000. After Liu was indicted and was on pretrial release, she continued to receive money from scam victims. The court revoked her bond and detained her. Rather than appear in court, Liu fled the country and was on the run for approximately seven months. Liu was arrested at the Texas border while trying to re-enter the United States and is currently detained.
Jianjie Liu, 44, of Cypress, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Sentencing is scheduled for June 16, 2022, at 9:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross.
This case is being investigated by the Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General and Gwinnett County Police Department.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane C. Schulman is prosecuting the case.