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PSU student faces 100 felony counts for fraud involving $17,000 in Amtrak tickets

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/4/17

A 19-year-old Penn State Harrisburg student has been charged with 100 felony counts of identity theft and numerous other charges for allegedly making hundreds of Amtrak train ticket purchases using …

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PSU student faces 100 felony counts for fraud involving $17,000 in Amtrak tickets

Posted

A 19-year-old Penn State Harrisburg student has been charged with 100 felony counts of identity theft and numerous other charges for allegedly making hundreds of Amtrak train ticket purchases using other people’s credit cards.

Amtrak police allege in court papers filed with District Justice David Judy that Guancheng Qiao, a information sciences and technology major who lives on Pineford Drive in Middletown, was responsible for at least 165 ticket purchases from December 2016 through May 2017 that were linked to 28 credit cards with 31 billing names and addresses. The total price of the tickets was $17,271, according to Amtrak.

All alleged cardholder victims contacted by Amtrak during the investigation advised Amtrak that they did not authorize Qiao to use their credit card. Amtrak took a loss for at least 83 of the estimated 165 ticket purchases.

Amtrak began its investigation in April following the purchase by a woman of a $133 train ticket using a compromised credit card for travel from Altoona en route to New York City.

The woman was removed from the train in Harrisburg and told investigators she had purchased the ticket through WeChat, a smartphone application with more than 877 million users worldwide, according to WeChat’s Facebook page.

The woman did not know the seller of the ticket, but had been directed to the seller through a friend who had seen an advertisement on WeChat promoting the availability of “cheap” Amtrak tickets, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak investigators traced the purchases to Qiao through a search warrant tied to the email address that the woman had used to purchase the ticket. The warrant showed that the seller was using two different Internet provider addresses that were owned by Penn State Harrisburg.

Amtrak also obtained another search warrant to trace Qiao to a third IP address, this one owned by Comcast, that Qiao had allegedly used to set up his account.

Police also found that a user name traced to Qiao was being used in publicly viewable “hacker” forums and in “carder” forums that are known to be online sources of compromised financial and personally identifiable information, according to Amtrak.

Qiao was arraigned before Judy on Sept. 26 and charged with 100 felony counts of identity theft, 50 felony counts of unauthorized use of an access device, one felony count of theft of services, one felony count of receiving stolen property, 163 felony counts of criminal use of a communication facility, and one felony count of unauthorized use of a computer.

Qiao was released after posting $75,000 bail. A preliminary hearing before Judy is set for Oct. 5.