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AG Yost announces sentencing in Coshocton County gift card counterfeiting scheme

Ohio Attorney General's Office, Press Release

A Chinese citizen linked to a major gift-card counterfeiting operation that targeted Coshocton-area consumers has been sentenced to four to six years in prison for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced recently.

Ming Xue, 32, of Hunan, in the Fujian Province, also faced 308 felony counts of counterfeiting, but those charges were combined with the single charge for which Xue was sentenced recently in Coshocton County Common Pleas Court.

Yost applauded the sentence, saying it should make other scammers think twice about ripping off consumers.

“This is a stark reminder to bad actors: We won’t let you cash in on deceit,” Yost said. “Special thanks to the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office for their work in securing justice.”

The sentencing follows a grand jury indictment of Xue in January. The 309 charges in the indictment stemmed from his arrest the previous month at a store in Coshocton after deputies apprehended him for hiding unloaded gift cards on his body. The deputies happened to be in the store for the annual Shop with a Cop program for needy children.

Further investigation uncovered hundreds of other gift cards in Xue’s vehicle, which eventually revealed a broader scheme that remains under investigation. Xue was found to have stolen unloaded gift cards, altered them, and then returned them to display racks at various stores in the area. When consumers bought the altered gift cards and money was loaded on them, Xue and his associates stole the money.

In addition to his prison sentence, Xue was ordered to pay $161.39 to cover the cost of the unloaded gift cards.

The case was prosecuted by the office of Coshocton County Prosecutor Ben Hall, with assistance from the Economic Crimes Unit of the Consumer Protection Section, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigation Commission (OOCIC) – all part of AG Yost’s office.

“The state aggressively prosecuted Mr. Ming Xue, seeking what is likely the largest indictment in Coshocton County history. Hopefully, this criminal enterprise will decide that the cost of operation in Coshocton County is too high,” said Hall. “I would like to thank the Attorney General’s Office, the OOCIC and Det. Sgt. Seth Andrews of the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office for their dedication during the investigation and prosecution of this case.”

To avoid falling victim to similar scams, Yost’s Consumer team urges Ohioans to take the following precautions when purchasing gift cards:

• Check the PIN: Ensure that the PIN on the back of the card hasn’t been scratched off or tampered with. Check whether the security film is crooked or has air bubbles, as this may indicate tampering.

• Track delivery: Monitor the delivery of gift cards via the U.S. Postal Service to prevent theft or accidental disposal. When mailing gift cards, consider taking them directly to the post office.

• Consider electronic options: Sending electronic gift cards to a verified email address or phone number can reduce the risk of physical theft.

Consumers who suspect a scam or encounter unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or call 800-282-0515.

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