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Computer lease scam busted

Two men have been convicted in Los Angeles of receiving fraudulently leased Dell notebooks and then reselling them.

Two men have been convicted in Los Angeles of receiving fraudulently leased Dell computers and reselling them to unsuspecting customers.

A federal jury convicted the two men Friday after a three-day trial before United States District Judge Harry L. Hupp. Sentencing is set for January.

The two men, Ronald Reinsdorf and Chang Suh, both 26, ran an ad in the Los Angeles Times last summer, offering Dell notebooks in unopened cartons for $2,700, although the notebooks go for about $4,300.

Computer crimes of various types are booming, and few people are protecting themselves sufficiently against assaults ranging from stolen laptops to high-tech Internet heists worth millions, a watchdog group said earlier this year. (See related story.)

Getting a jump on the Los Angeles case was as easy as opening the newspaper, said Assistant United States Attorney Brent A. Whittlesey. Federal agents saw the ad and set up a sting last June, he said.

Reinsdorf and Suh eventually attempted to sell nine of the computers to an FBI agent who posed as a purchaser, Whittlesey said. He expects the men to receive sentences of two to two-and-a-half years in federal prison.

The two men obtained 46 laptops from Dell, Whittlesey said.

The operation worked like this: Unknown persons leased the computers from Dell, using the name and Social Security Number of someone with good credit. They sent the order to Dell by fax, using a public fax machine, Whittlesey said. They then transferred the computers to Reinsdorf and Suh.

Besides the nine recovered in the sting, agents found 19 more computers at a Public Storage space rented by the two men. The rest of the 46 machines have not been recovered.

Whittlesey would not say if this type of leasing scam is a growing problem, but other investigations are ongoing.

"Other agents are following people doing mail drops today," he said.