Originally Published: May 25, 2018 6:02 a.m.
A K9 traffic stop along Interstate 40 in Ash Fork on Wednesday, May 16, resulted in the arrest of four California residents accused of running a credit card forging operation.
At about 9:30 a.m., a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) K9 deputy stopped a gray 2017 Ford Explorer for an equipment violation.
The driver, Bernard Tran, 32, was unusually nervous when the deputy began to speak with him, according to a deputy report.
The Ford Explorer had been rented by Tran’s sister, but she was not in the vehicle. As the conversation ensued, the deputy determined the group was likely involved in some form of criminal activity, the report said. Tran refused the deputies request to conduct a search of the vehicle for contraband, so the deputy deployed K9 ‘Gemma,’ certified in the detection of the odor of marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin. During an exterior sniff of the vehicle, K9 Gemma displayed an alert to the odor of narcotics.
When they searched the vehicle to find the source of the odor, deputies found more than seven grams of meth under the front seat, deputies reported. They also found several bags containing dozens of Visa and Mastercard blanks along with various credit and debit cards. Vun had three forged credit cards on him, one embossed with his name, the report stated. Ly possessed 15 forged credit cards found in her purse. After a more detailed search of the vehicle in a secure facility, deputies found a card skimmer, which is a device used to read credit card magnetic strips, along with additional forged cards in various account names, including Visa gift cards, Chase, Walmart and Sam’s Club. Several laptop computers were also seized.
Nguyen later admitted direct involvement in possessing the meth, credit card skimmer and several forged credit cards.
Deputies verified that the suspects had rewritten the magnetic strip information on several cards seized. Deputies also seized a card reader/writer/encoder commonly used by fraud rings to re-write magnetic strips.
Based on the findings, the suspects were arrested and booked into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde on the following charges:
Driver Bernard Tran, 32, from California has been charged with possession of a forged instrument and a warrant for money laundering. He remains in custody on a $25,000 bond.
Passenger Trung Nguyen, 34, from California has been charged with possession of dangerous drugs (methamphetamine), possession of drug paraphernalia (methamphetamine), possession of forgery equipment (skimmer), and two counts of forgery of a credit card. He remains in custody on an $80,000 bond.
Passenger Socheat Vun, 32, from California has been charged with three counts of possession of a forged instrument. He remains in custody on a $20,000 bond.
Loannie Ly, 28, from California has been charged with 15 counts of possession of a forged instrument. She remains in custody on a $20,000 bond.
“The investigation remains active as to the extent of this criminal enterprise, but there is no doubt these arrests will save the innocent victims of identity theft further fraudulent activity involving the suspects,” said YCSO spokesperson Dwight D’Evelyn. “YCSO would like to thank officers from the Chino Valley Police Department for their assistance with this incident.”
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