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Foreign couch surfer arrested for stealing from hosts in Shanghai and Beijing

A FOREIGNER who posed as a couch surfer and stole hosts' valuables in Beijing and Shanghai was arrested for theft, the Minhang District Prosecutors' Office announced Monday.

The man stole goods worth more than 10,000 yuan (US1,628), some of which he had sold. Officials declined to release the man’s nationality, age or other details about him or the status of the case.

Couch surfing involves hosts allowing travelers to sleep on their couches or other such accommodations for free, and those who participate are usually part of the well-known hospitality exchange and social networking website Couchsurfing.

It’s a cheap way to travel and usually is monitored by the website members.

The foreign guest, who claimed that he wanted to stay in Beijing for eight days, connected with a victim, surnamed Wei, via an online platform on November 20 and asked Wei to be his host.

Wei agreed and the next day picked up the man from the airport and took him to his apartment with his girlfriend. The man told Wei that he would leave on November 29 and got along with the duo well during his stay, officials said.

But after Wei and his girlfriend went out on November 29 and left the man at home alone, they found the guest was missing as were some valuables such as an SLR camera and a laptop.

Wei then called the police and posted his experience online to seek clues.

A netizen in Shanghai who is working in a youth hostel and once received a foreign man with a similar description soon called Wei and this clue was reported to Beijing police. Beijing police then informed Shanghai police and sought assistance.

Meanwhile, a local resident in Minhang District, surnamed Zhang, called Shanghai police to say his laptop and video camera were stolen by a couch surfer on December 17 when Zhang was out for work. This couch surfer, who contacted Zhang online on November 30, was identified as the same person committing theft in Wei's apartment.

The foreigner was caught in a youth hostel in Jing'an District on December 26.


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