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Man arrested for elaborate swindle

SHANGHAI No. 2 Intermediate Prosecutors' Office has ratified the arrest of a West African man who cheated a woman out of 1 million yuan (US$146,293), officials said yesterday.

The 46-year-old victim, surnamed Chen, worked in a Shenzhen hospital, Guangdong Province. She met a man on, a match-making Website, prosecutors said. The man claimed to be John Lipsky, the deputy director of the International Monetary Fund.

He told her he wanted to find a wife because his wife had died a few years before. Chatting online, they got to know each other and talked of marriage, prosecutors said.

The man told Chen he would fly to Shanghai soon on a business trip and asked to meet her on July 14. A few days before they were due to meet, he claimed his schedule had changed and he had to go to Iraq to deal with an emergency, Chen said.

Chen was told Lipsky's assistant would come to meet her and she was asked to look after an investment fund of US$3 million for him.

Chen took a flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai on July 14 and met a man called Massango Priso Muna, who claimed to be the Canadian assistant of Lipsky.

Muna took her to a five-star hotel and allegedly told her that he was carrying Lipsky's US$3-million investment fund, but that he'd stuck the money together in order to disguise it to take it through customs, as it was illegal to travel with more than US$1 million.

He allegedly showed her a safe full of US$100 bills, took out a note and washed it with a yellow liquid in a basin. The note separated into four US$100 bills.

Muna allegedly claimed he needed more of the yellow liquid to separate out all the cash but that it cost more than 60,000 pounds (US$85,350).

Chen talked to Lipsky on the phone and on MSN, and Lipsky asked Chen to find the money for him, so Chen borrowed 540,000 yuan from her friends and sent it to a bank account. Muna called her again on July 16 to borrow more money. Chen handed over her life savings of 460,000 yuan and returned to Shenzhen on July 19.

Chen came to Shanghai one week later and stumped up another 10,000 yuan. After that, attempts to reach either man failed. Chen went to the police on August 2.

Muna was caught in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, on December 20. Police said the suspect was aged 25 and he'd planned the scam online with another man.

The two returned to their homeland after taking Chen's money and had spent all of it. Muna allegedly said he had never thought money would be so easy to swindle, and he had come back to China to try the same trick again.


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