Vietnam jails e-commerce fraudsters for stealing $30 million

By Ha An, TN News

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Three managers of a fraudulent online shopping site stand at a trial in Hanoi June 30, 2014. Photo credit: Reuters Three managers of a fraudulent online shopping site stand at a trial in Hanoi June 30, 2014. Photo credit: Reuters

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A Hanoi court sentenced the three men who set up a fake online shopping site to prison for defrauding members out of VND631 billion (US$29.6 million) on Monday. 
The court found that the men had spent 5 percent of the proceeds -- all but VND5.3 billion has been recovered.
In addition to their jail sentences, the men were ordered to pay back the remaining proceeds of their scam to their 107 victims.
The court sentenced Ngo Van Huy, then-general director of the online shopping and training company MB24 (muaban24.vn) to 16 years while his deputy Le Van Cuong and Nguyen Manh Ha, the technical chief and administrator of the website, got 14 years and 12 years respectively.
Nguyen Tuan Minh, 41, the former board chairman who co-founded the company with Huy and Cuong in in May 2011, remains at large.
Without a license from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the men began promoting the company, opening fake online "booths" -- which purported to allow members to buy and sell goods online.
The men managed to sell 121,349 booths until the operation was shut down in July 2012.
Members paid real money to the company and got virtual currency in return.
The three convicts assured their victims that they would be able to exchange the virtual funds for currency in the future.
Investigators found that the four launched the site by adding more than 17,000 members from Ho Chi Minh City direct sales company Tam Mat Troi, where Huy used to work, to make the site seem like a thriving marketplace.
Several Tam Mat Troi executives were arrested in 2012 allegedly for misappropriating $11.2 million from 39,000 members who signed up believing they would gain access to huge promotions.
Most of their victims of the most MB24 scheme lived in remote rural areas and lacked an understanding of technology and e-commerce. The court found they were lured by VND1.5 million ($70.9) commissions the company promised to pay them for signing up new members.
MB24 managed to enlist recruiters and dupe victims all over the country before its headquarters in the capital was raided on August 1, 2012.

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