Asia is obsessed with iPhones. But they're extremely expensive across the globe, going for up to $2,000 apiece.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich, a Golden Valley Man made a lucrative business of ripping off American cell phone companies and trafficking stolen smart phones to Hong Kong, raking in millions of dollars between 2011 and 2014.
Zibo Li was indicted Thursday for leading eight lackeys in the scheme, according to the complaint. They allegedly used stolen identities of real people to apply for cell phone service contracts, which made them eligible to buy the hottest phones at reduced prices. They never actually made good on the service contracts.
The group also recruited homeless people to sign up for phone contracts and bought stolen phones off the black market, Sertich said. According to the charges, they would turn those phones over to Li, who'd pass them on to his contacts in Hong Kong.
Nearly 60 identities were ultimately stolen, and 20 Twin Cities businesses got roped into the scheme when the accused opened business accounts with cell contract providers in order to swindle large numbers of low-cost phones more efficiently, according to the U.S. Attorney. When all was said and done, Li had allegedly made $3.9 million.
"They exploited vulnerable members of our society, including people residing in homeless shelters, to steal cell phones and turn a profit," Sertich said. "I am proud to work with my law enforcement colleagues to put an end to this alleged conspiracy."
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