Sham marriage scam ringleaders who lured young Hongkongers into US$730,000 scheme with promise of big payday found guilty of fraud
Trio responsible for cross-border racket arranged 66 fake unions and convinced locals to marry mainland Chinese residents with offer of HK$100,000 payout
Three ringleaders of a syndicate that lured young Hongkongers into sham marriages were found guilty of fraud in District Court on Friday.
The trio, two men, Wong Cheung-yin and Luk Wing-kei, and a woman, Fong Wai-yan, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud and will be sentenced on September 7.
In total the group arranged 66 fake marriages, making five million yuan (US$730,000) in a scam where they targeted young people and offered them cash to marry mainland Chinese residents keen to live in the city.
Immigration Department officials ultimately arrested 86 people aged between 19 and 61 in connection with the cross-border racket, 51 of whom were from Hong Kong. Of that number, half were aged between 19 and 29.
According to the Immigration Department, the young Hongkongers were lured into marrying on the mainland via adverts in newspapers, on social media, and via messenger apps with promises of up to HK$100,000. But they only got HK$7,000 to HK$20,000 for taking part.
“The task was advertised as a job that offered a one-off high payment, but did not require any job experience,” said Au Yeung Chi-wai, an assistant principal immigration officer.
Au Yeung said the young Hongkongers were targeted by the syndicate because they did not have any marriage records and were keen to earn quick money.
“The racket also provided a through-train service – to help get the necessary documents and then take Hong Kong residents to the mainland for the bogus marriage.”
Au Yeung said the trio, which operated from 2012 until their arrests in 2016, charged mainlanders up to 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) to sign up for a fake marriage. Those taking part hoped to get Hong Kong residency or travel endorsements that would allow them to come and go at will, and work illegally.
The department said immigration officers would suspend the residency of anyone found to have obtained the document illegally.
“We will continue to mount undercover operations to tackle such scams,” Au Yeung said.
Nine other individuals who were arrested in the same operation have previously been jailed for between 11 and 18 months.
In 2017, 85 people were convicted of offences relating to bogus marriages, and were sentenced to jail terms ranging from six to 21 months.