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Man pleads guilty in ‘affinity fraud’ scheme in Garden Grove

WESTMINSTER — A 44-year-old man pleaded guilty Wednesday and was immediately sentenced to time served in custody and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution for a $3 million affinity fraud scheme in Garden Grove.

Lo Van Tran of Fremont was sentenced to 630 days in jail, or time already served since his arrest in May 2019. He was also placed on two years of formal probation.

Tran faces 12 years in prison if he fails to complete probation, his attorney Cameron Talley said.

Before his arrest, Tran paid back $800,000 and has chipped in another $100,000 now, Talley said.

“He came forward and told the people he defrauded them,” Talley said. “He didn’t mean to steal their money. He used their money to start another business and thought he could pay them back.”

Tran collected the money from more than 10 investors, most of them Vietnamese, between June 2017 and February 2018, according to Garden Grove Police Department Lt. Carl Whitney.

Tran promised a predetermined return based on the amount invested in his scheme, which involved a company he owned and operated called SmartBuy Outlet Inc., which had two storefronts in Garden Grove, Whitney said.

“The business also operated under the name SavMax Solutions Inc.,” Whitney said. “As a side business related to SmartBuy Outlet Inc., Tran claimed to have a partnership with a third-party logistics company known as Zyp Corporation, where he would facilitate the purchase and sales of large amounts of Apple products.”

Turns out Zyp Corporation never existed, Whitney said.

“He also fabricated bank and business documents to make his business appear legitimate,” Whitney said.

Affinity fraud involves preying upon victims from the same identifiable groups, “such as minorities and professional groups,” Whitney explained.

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