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3 Vietnamese Arrested for Hand Sanitizer Scam in Joint US-Vietnam Investigation

Authorities in Vietnam and the United States worked together to identify the suspects.

A news release from the US Embassy in Hanoi said that the investigation began in Tampa, Florida in March. Eventually, the US Department of Homeland Security's Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) passed relevant information on to Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

The MPS then began its own investigation and arrested three people, Phan Đình Thư, Trần Quốc Khánh and Nguyễn Duy Toản.

According to the release, the individuals set up over 300 websites that offered items such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes that were difficult to find in the US in recent months. At least 7,000 Americans in all 50 states attempted to purchase goods through these websites, but never received their orders.

The suspects had also created numerous email accounts with a payment processor based in the US in order to defraud the unsespecting customers and avoid the attention of law enforcement. They also listed incorrect phone numbers and addresses in the US as their contact info, and many unrelated people and businesses received complaints as a result.

All told, the trio is suspected of receiving over 40,000 transactions with a value of about US$975,000.

"The arrest of multiple suspects by Vietnam's [MPS] clearly demonstrates the Government of Vietnam takes COVID-19 related crimes seriously. This investigation result in significant financial losses to people who were already facing enormous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic," US Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink was quoted in the release as saying. "We are proud of the partnership between MPS and Homeland Security Investigations on this complex transnational fraud investigation."

[Photo/CC BY]

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