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Man pleads guilty in swindling scam

A construction project contractor went on trial yesterday for allegedly swindling more than 2 million yuan (US$292,847) by claiming to buy real estate at low prices for six victims.

The defendant Cao Weiguo, 51, pleaded guilty in the hearing at Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court but disagreed on the amount of money prosecutors said he had swindled.

From May 2007 to August 2008, Cao defrauded 2.24 million yuan from six victims by offering non-existing apartments at prices 30 percent below market value, prosecutors said. Cao said the swindled money amounted to only 2.04 million yuan.

Cao contracted projects for Shanghai Xinfa Relocation Co Ltd. He said he decided to take advantage of his job to swindle money in 2007 because he owed huge business debts.

"I had covered Shanghai Xinfa's costs in relocation projects for five years but the company never reimbursed me for these expenses and they never paid my fee," Cao told the court. "I had to borrow money to stay in business and the debts kept increasing."

Cao told acquaintances he could buy properties at low prices. It was attractive information because owners of properties awaiting relocation usually receive high compensation.

"I trusted him because he worked for a relocation company," said Huang Liexia in written testimony.

She was cheated 120,000 yuan by Cao in May 2007, the court was told. Cao promised to buy her an apartment in Huangpu District. Cao signed an agreement with her in the name of a real estate company that no longer existed and a relocation company, prosecutors said.

The court didn't announce a verdict in the case yesterday.


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