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July 3, 2011

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Discount car scam suspect held

A woman who allegedly performed Shanghai's biggest car purchase scam has been arrested on charges of contract fraud, Pudong New Area prosecutors said yesterday.

Current evidence shows more than 500 people had fallen victim to the scam involving some 170 million yuan (US$26.28 million), according to prosecutors.

Shan Yuanyuan, who ran Shanghai Shanke Trade Co Ltd, claimed last year that she was able to get cheap cars and iPhones from producers and could sell them on with discounts from 20 to 35 percent of the market prices.

At first, buyers could get cars and iPhones quickly. These buyers then introduced more friends to buy the cheap commodities from Shan and some even bought a large number to make profits, prosecutors said.

The buyers didn't know that Shan had actually bought cars and iPhones at market prices and sold them on at much lower prices to win people's trust. The price difference was covered by money she collected from later buyers, prosecutors alleged.

With hundreds of victims becoming involved, the loophole kept expanding and most buyers eventually failed to get cars or iPhones.

Shan told police after she was detained in May that she cooperated with a woman surnamed Zhang to perform the scam last July. But cooperation broke down in October and Zhang disappeared with more than 1 million yuan. Since about 100 customers demanded their money back from her, Shan continued the scam by herself.

"I know the hole can never be covered up. But I thought the scam wouldn't be exposed as long as I could cheat money from buyers," Shan told police. To encourage the company's sales staff to sell more cars and iPhones, Shan offered them high commissions and rewards, such as diamond rings, expensive cars and luxury bags.


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