California resident charged in superseding indictment for role in sim swap scam targeting at least 40 people, including New Orleans resident
Published 1:14 pm Monday, September 13, 2021
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Richard Yuan Li, age 21, a resident of Hercules, California, was charged on August 26, 2021 by a federal grand jury seated in the Eastern District of Louisiana in a four-count Superseding Indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1349 (Count 1), conspiracy to engage in interstate communication with intent to extort and to commit computer fraud and abuse, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371, 875(d), and 1030(a)(7) (Count 2), wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 (Count 3), and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A (Count 4), for his role in a SIM Swap scam that targeted at least forty people, including a New Orleans-area physician.
According to the Superseding Indictment, a SIM Swap scam is a cellular phone account takeover fraud that results in the routing of a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. Once a perpetrator is able to swap the SIM card, it is likely he is able to obtain access to a victim’s various personal accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, as well as any other accounts that use two-factor authentication.
Li participated in a scheme that involved multiple parts. First, in January 2018, he and a friend, B.P., defrauded Apple, Inc. into providing a second Apple iPhone without paying for it by convincing an Apple customer service representative that they had not received an Apple iPhone 8 they ordered (hereinafter “the Apple iPhone 8”). Li took possession of the Apple iPhone 8 and registered it using his email address and the name of his close relative. He and his co-conspirators then arranged for victims’ telephone numbers to be swapped to SIM cards contained in cellular phones in their possession, including the Apple iPhone 8. Specifically, on November 10, 2018, Victim A’s telephone number was swapped to a SIM card contained in the Apple iPhone 8, which Li possessed in the San Diego, California area. Thereafter, Li and his co-conspirators gained access to victims’ email accounts and cryptocurrency accounts as a result of the SIM Swap and stole a significant portion of victims’ cryptocurrency. Finally, as part of their scheme, after gaining access to victims’ accounts, Li and his co-conspirators contacted victims and demanded that they pay ransoms in order to avoid further harm, including additional account compromises, the loss of additional cryptocurrency, and the release of victims’ confidentiality information the conspirators obtained. In total, between July 19, 2018, and December 6, 2018, at least forty different phone numbers were activated on Li’s Apple iPhone 8.
If convicted, Li faces a maximum term of twenty (20) years in prison as to each of Counts 1 and 3, up to five (5) years in prison as to Count 2, and a mandatory consecutive two (2) years in prison as to Count 4, a fine of up to $250,000.00, up to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment per count.
U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that a Superseding Indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, Chief of the Public Corruption Unit, is in charge of the prosecution.