Two women in Southern California were arrested on Thursday for allegedly posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees.
Authorities believe that the suspects, identified as Ailing Lu, 25, of Los Angeles and Ji Hyun Lee, 25, of Gardena, operated a nation-wide phone scam that victimized several people out of nearly a million dollars.
According to the Fontana Police Department, a victim reported that he received a “cold call” from someone posing as an IRS agent on September 4. He was reportedly threatened with arrest if he did not pay $2,200 in Target gift cards.
The victim complied with the caller’s demands but later alerted the local police. Upon investigation, the gift cards were later traced to a Target in the Los Angeles area. Investigators identified Lu and Lee using surveillance footage.
Target’s Loss Prevention Unit told the investigators about a similar incident that Indiana University police were investigating, KTLA
reports. After looking at surveillance videos from both cases, it was determined that the same suspect was seen redeeming the gift cards both times.
“They actually informed our detectives that Indiana University had a victim,”
Officer Richard Guerrero was quoted by NBC4
as saying. “They looked at the video and the same suspect had also used some gift cards taken in a fraudulent capacity and used them at that particular location.”
After combing through two locations and vehicles linked to the women, investigators found about $900,000 worth of new electronics, gift cards and other items.
“We have things from iPads to iWatches to cameras,” said Guerrero.
Based on preliminary findings, there could be more victims, detectives say. Although, it is still unknown how much of the confiscated goods were procured via the scam.
“No law enforcement agency is going to threaten you with arrest and have you pay for these alleged consequences with gift cards, including the IRS,” Guerrero added.
He noted that it is best for victims to notify authorities immediately after receiving a threatening call.
FPD charged Lu with theft by false pretenses and conspiracy to commit crime charges, while Lee was charged with conspiracy to commit crime. Both are currently out on bail.
Victims of the the suspects are urged to contact Fontana Police.