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Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong man robbed 7-Eleven store to make money for ‘kidnapped’ girlfriend’s ransom – only to later learn he had been scammed by her

Lee Ho-yin, 23, turned up at the shop around 5am wearing sunglasses and a surgical mask, and pointed pellet gun at employee before making off with HK$5,650

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 10:50pm

A Hong Kong man held up a convenience store with a pellet gun and stole more than HK$5,600 (US$718) to get cash to save his kidnapped girlfriend in mainland China – only to later find out he was the victim of a scam, a court heard on Friday.

Part-time swimming instructor Lee Ho-yin, 23, pointed a black gun at a shopkeeper when he robbed the 7-Eleven convenience store on Shanghai Street in Kowloon on May 22 last year. He stole HK$5,650 after the frightened employee unlocked the till and handed over the takings.

Defence counsel Jasper Kwan Hang-fun told the High Court that Lee stole the money because he wanted to save his girlfriend, who claimed to have been kidnapped on the mainland. But it later turned out to be a scam, making Lee the “victim of a fraud”, he said.

The barrister also said Lee picked a gun – which fired small plastic pellets – with weak firing power to avoid causing injuries. But Madam Justice Susana Remedios, who presided over his mitigation session, replied: “It looks quite real.”

She sought reports on Lee’s mental condition after learning he had suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Asperger syndrome. She adjourned sentencing to July 23.

Lee pleaded guilty at Eastern Court to one count of robbery in February.

According to prosecutors, he turned up at the store at about 5am, wearing sunglasses and a surgical mask. He pointed the gun at the shopkeeper, Gao Guoan, in his 30s, who handed over the money.

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After checking closed-circuit television footage, police arrested Lee three days later.

Tests showed the weapon could only fire tiny plastic pellets at such a low velocity that they “fell to the ground shortly after leaving” the gun, prosecutors said.

In mitigation, Kwan said the incident stemmed from a relationship Lee had developed with a woman he met while studying electrical engineering at a vocational school in Hong Kong years ago.

He said Lee had found love with the woman, who later dropped out of school. The woman, who returned to the mainland, told Lee she had been kidnapped and asked him to pay the ransom.

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Lee’s father strongly believed his son had been deceived so he took away his permit to visit the mainland.

Without any money, Lee “came up with this very stupid idea to rob the convenience store”, Kwan said.

Lee gave her the money, and “of course, this lady disappeared”, he said.