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April 4, 2011

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Millionaire status for teenage thieves

TEENAGE thieves became instant millionaires after discovering bags of cash in a house they were robbing, a court heard.

Gang members splashed out on luxuries, stayed in expensive hotels, and one teenager even prepared a dowry for his girlfriend.

But this newfound wealth was short-lived as they were caught by police a month later.

Minhang District prosecutors said the four teenagers, aged 16 and 17, teamed up last October to live by stealing, and did "good business."

Their last theft brought in more than 3 million yuan (US$458,015).

"All the boys lacked parental supervision and had dropped out of school," said Lu Qinjian, a prosecutor.

The group leader, identified as Yang, 17, is a Sichuan Province native who came to Shanghai alone at the age of 14. Yang had been convicted five times in the past three years, but said this was the price to pay for learning his "trade."

"I became more experienced after three years' practice. No wonder it is said failure is the mother of success," Yang told prosecutors.

He met a boy, identified as Bing, also 17, in 2009 and they became friends. The duo recruited two other boys, identified as Dong and Kai, both 16, last October to form a gang, prosecutors said.

They worked in two teams, agreeing that stolen items would be shared, though the gang member who stole the items would get more, prosecutors heard.

On the evening of January 9, the four took a taxi to a high-grade residential community and began searching for targets.

Yang and Dong slipped into a first-floor apartment after opening a window. Yang helped himself to some gold ornaments and imported watches, but when he walked into the bathroom he saw three cash-filled bags on the floor.

"It was the most prominent success among my numerous thefts," Yang told prosecutors.

The cash totaled 3.29 million yuan. Yang took 1.25 million yuan, Dong 1.05 million yuan and the other two each got 400,000 yuan. The remainder went to Bing's elder brother, who happened to be there when they were dividing the loot, prosecutors alleged.

Afterwards, Yang remained in Shanghai while the others left the city. Police detained Yang on February 9 and later apprehended the rest of the gang in Hunan Province. Officers retrieved 1.37 million yuan of the stolen money.

Dong's girlfriend told police they lived it up in top hotels and he promised to prepare a dowry for her.

Yang told police he spent all his share of the loot, but would not give any details.

Because the parents of three of the teenagers couldn't attend court, the Minhang District Prosecutors' Office appointed three social workers to act as their temporary guardians.

The gang awaits trial.


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