Three Chinese nationals living in Australia who used stolen personal information to make fraudulent transactions will be released from prison in a month, while a third will walk free immediately.
Renzhong Chen, 31, Sheng Li, 25, and Xiaoxin Zheng, 20, were arrested in November after using details from a phishing scam, which is believed to have affected around 1,800 people across Australia.
The men previously pleaded guilty to more than 180 counts of various offences including identity theft.
The court heard victims had their personal information compromised through a phishing scam linked to the 2022 Optus data breach, where they would be sent text messages with a fake hyperlink posing to be from streaming services such as Spotify, Netflix and Foxtel.
While the three men were not involved in sending any of the messages, they were found to have been responsible for downloading the stolen credit card details which had been illegally uploaded onto the dark web.
The men, who had been living in Western Australia, carried out their offending while they were staying at an Airbnb in North Haven, in Adelaide’s north-west.
They were able to use the stolen data in electronic wallets on numerous mobile phones to make fraudulent transactions from stores across Adelaide.
Upon their arrest at the Airbnb, police seized a number of electronic items and found a spreadsheet on Chen’s laptop that included the personal data of 1,800 Australians.
The prosecution identified 28 victims in the case, who had a total of $26,400 stolen.
Magistrate says men caused ‘financial crisis’ to victims
Magistrate Jayanthi Pandya said the victim impact statements of 14 individuals highlighted the “financial crisis” that the offenders caused.
“Make no mistake, the consequences of your actions run deep,” Magistrate Pandya said.
“The distress, the hurt, the inconvenience and the sheer weight of insecurity and terror … that you have begged victims to endure.
“Each of you committed the offences distanced from the pain of victims and you committed it with ease and in a carefree manner.”
The court heard Chen was in contact with another Chinese man in Victoria, who paid them $300 to $400 a day to commit the crimes while they were in South Australia.
It also heard the men had made an effort to “avoid detection” by renting four different vehicles.
Magistrate Pandya said the offending was “extremely serious” given it was on a national scale, and that the need for deterrence to the public was strong.
“You all familiarised yourself in the business of breaching the system,” she said.
“Courts must make it clear to those who play a part in using stolen items of others to their advantage that they will be treated seriously.”
The men will be required to equally pay back the money stolen from the 28 victims.
They will also each be charged $80,000 under the victims of crime levy, substantial fees that the court heard the defendants’ parents would be paying.
Zheng was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 10 months which was backdated to his initial arrest, meaning he will be eligible for immediate release.
Li was also sentenced to 13 months, with a non-parole period of 12 months taking into account his time served in custody and home detention bail, meaning he will be released in a month’s time.
Magistrate Pandya sentenced Chen on the basis he had a “higher responsibility” in the crimes and was “pivotal to the success of the operation”.
He will also be eligible for release in a month, after being sentenced to one year and five months, with a non-parole period of 12 months.
This content was originally published here.