A federal investigation dubbed Operation eMule has led agents to two foreign-exchange students in Minnesota who are accused of taking part in a cyber-crime ring in Vietnam that stole the identities of countless Americans and pilfered millions of dollars from online retailers.
According to Star Tribune, court documents identified major companies such as eBay, PayPal, Apple and Dell, as targets of the cyber gang. Authorities said stolen identities were used to open accounts with eBay, PayPal and U.S. banks. Through those accounts, the fraudsters sold popular merchandise at discounted prices.
The two Winona State University students Tram Vo and Khoi Van allegedly controlled more than 180 eBay accounts and more than 360 PayPal accounts that were opened using stolen identities. Investigators found the two students made nearly $1.25 million, much of which was then wired to accounts in Vietnam and Canada.
Immigration officials declined to comment last week on the two suspects’ status, saying the issue is part of an “ongoing criminal investigation.” Public records show no criminal charges against the students, however, Star Tribune reported.
Operation eMule officially began in September 2009 to investigate criminal rings based in Vietnam that target e-commerce and express mail courier operations. Investigators estimate the rings contribute “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an underground economy in Vietnam, according to an affidavit obtained by Star Tribune.