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June 12, 2010

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Sexy lures led to costly dates

A WELL-ORGANIZED gang of 41 suspects were detained by Shanghai police for allegedly using sweet-talking women to lure male netizens to restaurants, where the marks would be charged exorbitant prices for food and wine.

About 120 victims were scammed by the gang for a total of nearly 1 million yuan (US$146,400) in less than a month -- the biggest case of its kind in city history, police said.

The gang, led by a suspect surnamed Li, consisted of a management team and a series of specialists, including women who chatted up the victims over the Internet, women who actually met the men, and accountants, police said.

Twenty-four of the suspects have been arrested under the approval of the prosecutor's office.

Two months ago, a victim surnamed Zhang met a girl online through QQ, a popular instant-message platform in China. After chatting for several days, the girl sent the middle-aged man a picture of herself, indicating she was single and lived in the same area as Zhang.

On April 10, which the girl claimed was her birthday, the two met at the intersection of Songhui Road and Guyang Road, police said.

Zhang was then taken to a Western restaurant for dinner, where the suspect ordered about 14,000 yuan of food and wine, the police said. Zhang realized he'd been scammed after paying the bill and called the police.

During the investigation, the police found that not all the suspects lived near the restaurant but all had clear-cut responsibilities.

The chatting specialists, who were also called "keyboarders," found and chatted with men every day in a passionate and alluring way. If the victim showed interest, the keyboarder would arrange a date and leave the rest to the girl scammers, who would take the victims to the gang's restaurant. Once the victims paid the bill, the girls quickly got rid of them.

"There are even lookouts in the restaurant and the sales of roses on the date," said Songjiang police officer Li Ming. The flowers were, of course, overpriced.

The police said the management of the gang was strict and kept close accounts. Li, the boss, got 30 percent; the keyboarder could get 17 percent; and the girl who took the victim got about 14 percent. Other gang members split the rest.

Thirty-four suspects were caught during a police raid on April 21. The others were detained last month in Jiangsu and Heilongjiang provinces and Beijing.

Before coming to Songjiang, the gang scammed victims in Putuo and Minhang districts, police said.


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