Calif. man in local custody facing federal charges in watch thefts

Kranich's Jewelers on North Atherton Street in Patton Township.
Kranich's Jewelers on North Atherton Street in Patton Township. CDT Photo

A California man in custody in Centre County has been accused of fraudulently purchasing expensive watches at stores in several states, including one in the State College area.

Phil Nguyen, 67, of Garden Grove, Calif., was indicted Thursday by a U.S. Middle District grand jury on charges of wire fraud in connection with identification documents and access devices, interstate transportation of stolen property and aggravated identity theft.

He was arrested July 20 after attempting to buy a Rolex 18K Stainless Datejust watch worth $11,700 from Kranich’s Jewelers on North Atherton Street, according to a police report.

Patton Township police said Nguyen had shopped in the store two days earlier, telling staff he wanted to finance the purchase. He was unaware police suspected that he would use false identification to make the purchase, they said.

The federal indictment includes the Kranich’s incident plus purchases between Jan. 1 and July 20 at stores in Las Vegas, Wayne and Marlton, N.J., and Orchard Park., N.Y. The fraudulent purchases totaled $74,337, the charges state.

The interstate transportation count alleges he brought a watch worth $14,137 that was purchased in Orchard Park to Centre County in July.

Nguyen is accused of using fake California driver’s licenses with his photograph but names or dates of birth of others to purchase or attempt to purchase luxury Rolex and Omega watches.

He also is accused of using fraudulent credit cards issued by Bank of America and false identification to apply for credit.

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance, a New York-based organization, had issued alerts about the scam it said involved a “gang of Asian suspects”