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November 9, 2009

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17 face charges in club scam

THREE karaoke club owners and 14 employees are facing charges of robbery, conducting business using force and organized prostitution involving a hotel sex scam focusing on out-of-towners.

Come-on men lured victims from hotels, bath houses or pubs around the city to the karaoke club run by men surnamed Mao, Pan and Zheng on Tianyaoqiao Road, in the Xujiahui area, and forced them to pay thousands of yuan once they got there, police said.

Victims were told stories about a bath house once offering high-end prostitution services at a local luxury hotel and were urged to visit the so-called new site of the venue, said Xuhui District police in charge of the case.

At the club, victims were asked by half-naked female attendants for details about their financial status and prompted to buy drinks and services.

They were not allowed to leave before paying thousands of yuan on a single bill. One even paid 15,000 yuan (US$2196.72), police said.

Thugs hired by the club even searched their pockets and grabbed their wallets, according to a surveillance video taken by police. Sometimes they used victims' bank cards to take money at ATMs, police added.

A cabbie, also a suspected conspirator, would then drive them around the city via long detours so they couldn't remember the way to the club.

Police raided the club late Wednesday and rounded up 30 people.

Mao, Pan, Zheng and 14 of their employees were detained immediately for further criminal investigation. Six others were penalized with up to 15-day jail terms or fines.


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