An earlier decision made by a trial court to sentence a man caught in possession of a number of stolen gift cheques has been upheld by a San Francisco Appeals Court.
Timothy Truong, 44, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing gift cheques and using them to make purchases over the Internet.
In 2006, police authorities identified Truong as main suspect in a series of unauthorized online gift cheque transactions in San Francisco. Truong, however, resisted arrest which culminated in a high speed chase with police officers. Upon apprehension, Truong yielded 3,884 stolen Wal-Mart gift cheques.
Truong's modus operandi would initially start with his staking out Wal-Mart stores selling gift cheques. He then devised a scheme to steal the gift cards undetected. Using sophisticated and highly advanced duplicating devices, he produced original looking gift cheques. Next step is that he would ingeniously return the fake gift cards back to the retail stores. The cards were so cleverly made that store employees and officials were not able to detect anything improper, eventually selling them to unsuspecting store customers.
Truong would then go online and check the status of the gift cheques that he had stolen. Cheques that have not been spent will be used by Truong to make purchases over the Internet. When rightful customers use their fake gift checks, they would be informed by store staff that they are no longer valid and that they hold zero or no value.
During an initial court hearing, Truong pleaded guilty to the charges of possession of fraudulent access devices. He tried to mitigate damages by appealing his sentence. His counsel stated that Truong was wrongfully charged with the crime of possession of access devices, since access devices are only applicable to credit cards and ATM cards. Gift cheques do not traditionally fall in the category of access devices and in court cases the term is used normally to stolen credit and ATM cards.
The Appeals Court, however, brushed aside the defendant's arguments saying that gift cheques also fall under the category of access devices, since it can be used to access store accounts.
In Truong's case, he used gift cards to access accounts online to make illegal purchases.
The courts meted out the maximum 10 year jail sentence to Truong and labelled him as a menace and threat to society.
Truong is a veteran scam artist and has been engaged in this type of illegal activity since 1992. He has previously been involved in several credit fraud cases in six states.