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Scams and swindles

Mainland Chinese woman who duped senior citizen in Hong Kong with promise of ‘spiritual blessing’ gets longer jail term

The 54-year-old will be locked up for 3½ years, including six months for illegal entry, after police pushed for tougher punishment amid a rise in street scams

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 10:59pm

A Hong Kong court on Wednesday increased the jail sentence of a woman from two to three years for street deception after police pushed for a tougher penalty amid a rise in the number of such scams in the city.

Qin Fengluan, 54, who had entered Hong Kong illegally from mainland China, cheated an elderly woman, 77, of more than HK$60,000 (US$7,670) in cash and valuables in a common “spiritual blessing scam”.

Street deceptions more than doubled in 2017 to 90 cases compared with the previous year, although the overall number of scams reported dropped 2.3 per cent to 7,091 in the same period. Two-thirds of all street scams involved spiritual blessings, and all victims were senior citizens who lost around HK$7 million in total.

Protect Hong Kong’s elderly and vulnerable from financial cheats

The District Court accepted an appeal by police to increase Qin’s jail term to three years from the original two, coupled with another six months for illegal entry into the city, bringing the total term to 3½ years.

“We hope the harsher punishment can deter would-be culprits from engaging in such crimes,” Tommy Tse Siu-sum from the commercial crime bureau said.

“Conspiracy to defraud is a serious crime and carries a maximum jail term of 14 years.”

In May last year, Qin approached the elderly woman, surnamed Kwan, who was on the way to a wet market in Tai Po. Kwan was told that her son was ill and would encounter misfortunes.

Qin, who was the mastermind of a group, claimed she knew a spiritual doctor and convinced Kwan to hand her valuables for a ritual that would spare her son from the bad luck.

300 victims of ‘living Buddha’ scam seek help from Hong Kong police after HK$80 million in losses

She then referred Kwan to other members of the group for the rites.

“Kwan went home and came back with cash – HK$60,000 and 3,000 yuan – a gold necklace and a jade pendant. Two con artists wrapped them in a plastic bag and told the victim not to open it for a week,” Tse said.

When Kwan returned home, she noticed that the bag was lighter. She opened it and discovered only a few filled water bottles. Realising she had been duped, she reported the case to police.

Qin was arrested the next day, with two other suspects still at large.