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By Milton J. Valencia

Globe Staff / August 7, 2008

A Boston police officer called it an example of "the up and coming crime," using the Internet to commit fraud. A small group of people from the Dorchester area is suspected in a $100,000-plus scheme using stolen credit card numbers to boost balances on Dunkin' Donuts gift cards, all with the aid of a computer.

"It's kind of like the Wild West on the Internet," said Steve Bailey, a detective with the Boston Police Department's special investigations unit.
Just as federal authorities were charging 11 people in a massive credit card scam spanning five years and affecting nine major US companies, local police arrested one man, are looking for his sister, and suspect others were involved in a scheme at a Dunkin' Donuts on Brighton Avenue.
Police charged Kevin Nguyen, 24, of Dorchester with larceny over $250. He was arrested Tuesday and released on his own recognizance, but a warrant was issued for his arrest after he did not appear for his arraignment yesterday, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney's office.
Last night, police were also looking for Nguyen's sister, Hong Nguyen. A warrant was issued for her arrest. Police are also investigating whether other family members were involved in what might be an organized crime ring.
Kevin Nguyen was one of the major players, Bailey said.
In this scam, police said, stolen credit card numbers would be used to boost the balance of Dunkin' Donuts gift cards up to the $200 maximum, and the suspects would use the gift cards to buy products and then sell them at local shops.
Police said Kevin Nguyen used a laptop computer to buy stolen credit card numbers in Internet chat rooms. For 20 cents, he could buy the credit card number, its expiration date, and security pass code.
Other members would buy Dunkin' Donuts gift cards for $5, then increase the balance on the computer with the stolen credit card information. The suspects would go to the Dunkin' Donuts branch on Brighton Avenue and make significant purchases of soda and coffee. Then, they would sell the items to local independent stores, at half the price, police said.
"They would come up with trucks and load up pallets with soda and coffee," Bailey said.
Those involved would tell Dunkin' Donuts workers that they were with a mortgage company that was showing a house, and were using the cards to buy drinks for the event.
Bailey said police continue to investigate, but of particular concern is the number of credit card customers who may have been defrauded. He urged credit card holders to check their monthly bills.
"Most people don't even know, they haven't got their bills at the end of the month, that they've been victims of this fraud," Bailey said.
He said police know that more than $100,000 in fraudulent purchases were made at the Dunkin' Donuts shop in the last several months, and authorities are investigating whether the suspects may have used the scheme at other stores, including clothing shops. Bailey said that the crimes could warrant federal charges and that the Secret Service is looking at the case.
Police were alerted to the scheme by Dunkin' Donuts executives, who grew suspicious of the high number of gift card purchases at the Brighton store.
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