Chinese ‘soldier’ cons online ‘girlfriend’ out of US$218,000 with series of elaborate scams

Fraudster told woman he needed cosmetic surgery to escape an adversary and hospital treatment for a snake bite

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 3:17pm

A Chinese man who masqueraded as a member of the special forces to cheat his online “girlfriend” out of 1.5 million yuan (US$218,000) over almost a decade has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, a Chinese newspaper reported.

The con man, identified only as Li, stood trial in July, about four months after being tracked down by police in central China’s Hubei province, Modern Express reported on Tuesday.

Li and his victim, a woman surnamed Wang from Suzhou in east China’s Jiangsu province, began chatting on social media in 2007.

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Wang, then in her 30s, soon became enamoured with Li’s spurious tales of his exploits in the military. So when she received a message from a man claiming to be a friend of Li’s, saying her “boyfriend” had been kidnapped by drug dealers, she was keen to help, the report said.

The friend, who also posted images of wounds to Li’s arms, supposedly inflicted by his captors, asked Wang to transfer 10,000 yuan to his bank account to cover the ransom demand, which she did.

The report said that after his arrest, Li told police he did not plan to defraud Wang out of “so much money, but I was surprised that she was so easy to convince, so I made up stories one after another”.

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Li persuaded Wang to make regular payments to him, telling her he could not to find a job after leaving the special forces because of the physical injuries he had sustained. Over the next nine years, she handed over about 300,000 yuan via monthly bank transfers of up to 5,000 yuan at a time.

Li ramped up his demands last year when he told Wang that he was on the run from an enemy and needed 500,000 yuan for cosmetic surgery, the report said.

Although she had already used up her savings, Wang applied for several loans through online lenders and forwarded the money to Li.

Later in the year she borrowed a further 700,000 yuan, which Li said he needed to pay for medical treatment for a snake bite.

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The fraud only came to light when Wang’s workmates saw reminders from companies that had lent her money, and called the police on her behalf.

Li was then detained and tried. In court he was sentenced to 12½ years in prison and fined 100,000 yuan, the report said.