Jail for conman publisher who made HK$300,000 by claiming official links

Conman tricked businessmen into stumping up HK$300,000 for adverts by claiming his titles were official. Out on bail, he did it again - twice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 12:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 3:59am

A conman who posed as a publisher for Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong to trick seven people into paying HK$300,000 in advertising fees was yesterday jailed for 20 months.

Wong Ho-kay, 56, told eight businessmen and a fung shui master that his publications were authorised by the office to cover such events as the 15th anniversary of the handover. Seven people fell for the scam between September 2012 and August last year.

Wong admitted nine charges of fraud and one of perverting the course of justice. His part-time employee Eric Ho Kwok-wai, 43, admitted one count of fraud and was sentenced to 180 hours of community service.

"The victims placed the advertisements with Wong's company only because they believed Wong was an authorised publisher of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," Judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen told the District Court yesterday.

He said the scheme was not sophisticated as Wong had made only oral misrepresentations and had not used false documents.

Fung shui master Lee Shing-chak and Ellis Wong Wai-hung of food import firm Kiu Fung Hong were among the victims.

The court heard Wong was proprietor of two companies that published China Business and International Business. He invited his victims to give interviews for those titles, which he claimed were printed under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce.

Wong's accomplice Ho then posed as a reporter to conduct the interviews and ask the interviewees to buy advertising space.

Alan Lee Yuk-lun, vice-president of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and a committee member of the Beijing municipality in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, alerted police after being asked for HK$29,000 to place an advertisement. A colleague of his had confirmed with the liaison office that it had not authorised the publications.

Ho was arrested when he arrived to interview Lee on April 24 last year.

Wong turned himself in a few days later. But while on bail, he swindled two more people before being arrested on August 16.

Defence lawyer Michael Leung said Wong was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and wanted to earn as much as possible for his family before his death.

Most of the advertisements were placed in Wong's publications, except one solicited shortly before his arrest. Wong had also employed physically and mentally disabled people. "While breaking the law, Wong has shown he has a good side to his character," said the lawyer.