Matchmaking boss jailed for 13 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2006, 12:00am

A court in Hainan province has jailed the mastermind of one of the mainland's largest matchmaking scams for 13 years after clients were cheated out of 1.4 million yuan in service fees.

Haikou's intermediate court recently found Gou Hongtu , his wife, Wang Xiaoming , and 15 other defendants guilty of fraud by cheating people who answered fake personal advertisements they placed in national magazines, according to a report in the Nanguo Daily.

The group cheated 3,781 people from across the mainland out of 1.4 million yuan between July 2004 and March last year.

They reportedly placed fake personal advertisements in national magazines under the names of 10 different matchmaking companies, attracting readers with headlines such as 'Daughter of Wealthy Businessman', 'Military Official' and 'Wealthy Taiwanese Businessman'.

The group's members would then take turns pretending to be the person who placed the advertisement. Those who answered an advertisement and wanted to speak to the person would have to pay 100 yuan to 400 yuan. The group would cut off contact with the person a few days after the money was received.

Cui Peijun , an executive member of the China Association of Social Workers' matchmaking service committee, said that while such scams were common, the Haikou case probably was the biggest in terms of money involved.

He added that the fraudsters took advantage of loopholes in advertising regulations that did not require verification of the advertised data, and the fact that victims would be too embarrassed to report their losses to the police.

'Many people would not report such cases to the police because they are afraid of losing face,' Mr Cui said. 'And sometimes, even if the case is reported, the police would not make a record of it unless it involved a few thousand yuan.'

Mr Cui advised single people to be realistic when reading personals ads.

Gou was sentenced to 13 years in jail and his wife was jailed for two years. The other defendants were given sentences of between 16 months and 10 years.

The business was started by Gou and his wife from their home in 2003. They expanded the business and hired additional workers a year later by establishing 10 new companies with different names.