SAN FRANCISCO, CA – District Attorney George Gascón announced today that three defendants who were charged in their involvement in jewelry scams or “ghost scams” targeting women and elderly victims in the Chinese community must stand trial. Three women are charged in connection with stealing over $100,000 worth of cash and jewelry from five victims.
“Combating elder abuse is a top priority for the DA’s Office and we look forward to the next stage of prosecution,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “My office will continue to educate seniors in the Chinese community to prevent them from falling prey to these types of scams.”
Three defendants were charged on May 15, 2012 in their involvement in the scam. Huifei Lin, age 42, was charged with a total of 14 felonies including 4 felony counts of grand theft, 5 felony counts of extortion, 3 felony counts of defrauding an elder, 1 felony count of robbery and 1 felony count of causing injury to an elder. Caiqiong Chen, age 43, and Lirong Lin, age 57, were each charged with 7 felonies. They were each charged with 3 felony counts of grand theft, 3 felony counts of extortion, and 1 felony count of defrauding an elder.
The scams targeted elderly Chinese women. Victims were approached on the street and were told they were plagued by evil spirits and that their families were in danger. Defendants allegedly would befriend victims and convince them a “purification” ceremony was needed to lift the evil spirits. Victims were instructed to bring all their jewelry and money in a bag to a specified meeting location. During the “purification” ceremony, Defendants would replace the items in the bag when the victim wasn’t looking. Victims were instructed not to look in the bag for a certain period of time.
The District Attorney’s Office has held community educational meetings in Chinatown, the Sunset and Visitacion Valley to educate the Chinese community about these scams and how to prevent from being a victim.
District Attorney Gascón stressed the importance of being vigilant about potential scams out there and to report any type of fraud or scam to the San Francisco Police Department, at (415) 553-0123; for Cantonese please call (415) 553-9212.
San Francisco Police Department Inspectors Julie Yee and Kim Lewis are assigned on the case. Cheryl Matthews is the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting this case.