A man who was reportedly a part of a Chinese organized crime group behind a driver’s license scam that targeted thousands of Texans has been extradited from New York to Texas.
Tony Cao Li, 35, is currently held in Travis County Jail on a $250,000 bond. He was reportedly arrested in Utah earlier this year as part of a multi-agency effort to tackle identity theft cases tracked by cyber expert John Miri.
“I certainly wish it would have been sooner, and they would have caught more of them. But, unfortunately, what’s surprising is that they caught anyone,” Miri told FOX5NY.
Li was reportedly arrested after he used IDs he had stolen to make expensive purchases, such as for a Mercedes and a Porsche.
One of those IDs reportedly belonged to a software engineer based in Austin, Texas.
Court documents also revealed that 1,273 Texas drivers’ licenses based in Texas were found to be linked to Li, as well as three addresses in Oklahoma.
According to officials, the Chinese organizedcrime group operates by taking information from the deep web, a part of the internet inaccessible to conventional browsers, and using the stolen personal data to apply for replacement licenses.
After doing so, the group would then open credit cards using those IDs and use them to steal money from the victims. The group would also send those licenses to other states from New York, including Oklahoma and Georgia, where they would be sold to other people.
“It’s a long process for investigators. And unfortunately, it’s going to be an even longer and harder process for the people that got affected,” Miri said. “I would as we talked last time, I would really encourage people to get a credit monitoring service.”
DPS Director Steven McGraw said the agency began alerting victims by mail after they noticed the crime ring was using stolen personal data to answer questions on theTexas.gov website.
The letters were also sent in other languages besides English, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.
McGraw previously said that while the agency had been aware of the situation since December 2022, the DPS did not immediately notify victims because of ongoing investigations.
Answers were only given after Texas State Rep. Mary Gonzales began asking questions about the matter, saying, “I knew that it wasn’t public and so I decided to ask questions so that people could really wonder and have the information about what’s happening,” KHOU11 reported.
Texas reportedly had the second-highest number of scam cases across the U.S. in 2021, totaling 40,000 victims with reported losses of over $606 million. Cases of digital scams, such as identity theft, reportedly grew amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
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