Mountain View Voice

News - February 24, 2012

Women sentenced in elder fraud

by Sue Dremann

Two women who stole more than $250,000 out of a Los Altos couple's Palo Alto credit union account were sentenced in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday, Feb. 16.

Pang Thao, 26, of Elk Grove, Calif., in March 2011 accessed an elderly Los Altos couple's certificate account located at Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union, now called First Tech Federal Credit Union. Thao was a call taker in Rocklin, Calif., for the Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union, which merged with Oregon-based First Tech in early 2011.

Prosecutors said Thao created a PIN number for online access without authorization. She closed out the victims' account and transferred all of the funds, totaling over $256,000, to the account of her cousin, Nancy Vang, 27, of Sacramento.

Vang transferred most of the funds back to Thao and Thao's immediate family members in April and May. Some of the stolen money appears to have been spent on shopping sprees at such stores as Walmart and Nordstrom, according to the district attorney's office.

The victims, who were in their 70s, discovered their account had been emptied when they received their bank statement in May. They immediately reported the theft to the bank and police.

Judge Rene Navarro sentenced Thao to three years in prison for identity theft, computer hacking and elder fraud with an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement — all felonies. Vang was sentenced to one year in county jail for identity theft and grand theft with an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement, also felonies.

"It is outrageous that these women targeted an elderly couples' life savings to buy extravagant things," Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Deng said. "I hope their sentences show other potential thieves that this type of criminal behavior is not to be tolerated."

The case was investigated by REACT, a Bay Area high-technology crimes and identity theft task force directed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. REACT froze and recovered approximately $85,000 of the stolen funds and seized a 2007 Acura MDX, which was purchased with the illegally obtained funds, the DA's office said.

Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union was formed in Palo Alto in 1956 by a group of Hewlett-Packard employees to serve employees in ways they thought were better than traditional banks.

Seven employees from Oregon-based Tektronix formed First Tech Credit Union with similar aims in 1952. The credit unions merged in early 2011 and now serve 326,000 members located in 50 states and in nearly 20 countries, according to its website. The bank has two branches in Cupertino.

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