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January 8, 2011

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Wine, women ... and an extortionate bill

SCANTILY clad women offering wine and fruit were part of a gang that duped foreigners into paying extortionate amounts for food and drink, prosecutors said yesterday.

The group, which targeted tourists and expats, has been charged with transaction by force, according to Yangpu District prosecutors.

They rented compartments in a karaoke bar in Yangpu District to carry out the scam. A gang member was assigned to befriend foreigners on the street and lure them back to the bar. There the victim would be given something to eat and drink and then forced to pay a hugely inflated bill, prosecutors said.

One of the gang's victims was Tony Pan, an American, who arrived in Shanghai in early June last year from Thailand. He was walking on Pujian Road on the night of June 6 when a man asked if he wanted a Thai massage. Having just experienced massage in Thailand and enjoyed it, Pan agreed.

In the karaoke bar, Pan found two women in skimpy clothes waiting for him with fruit and wine laid out on a table. They asked him to taste the fruit and drink some imported wine, which Pan did.

Seeing that no massage was on offer, Pan decided to leave but was given a bill of more than 17,000 yuan (US$2,564). When Pan refused to pay and had a dispute with the man who had approached him on the street, three other men, armed with sticks, appeared and threatened to beat him.

Pan had to use a credit card to pay, prosecutors alleged. After leaving the karaoke bar, Pan called police.

The gang was detained in October and its leader, a man surnamed Chen, confessed that members would divide the money immediately after their victims paid.

Police are still investigating how many victims the gang cheated.


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