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Friday, November 16, 2012

Would-Be Victim Outsmarts Suspects in Weird Asian Ghost Scam, Four Charged

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 7:40 AM

They ain't afraid of no ghosts
  • They ain't afraid of no ghosts

The District Attorney was pretty stoked to announce he's charged additional suspects connected to that bizarre ghost scam that's plagued San Francisco's Asian community since early this year.

"Our public awareness campaign is working," said District Attorney George Gascón. "Thanks to the media, potential victims are becoming aware of the scam and extra vigilant."

The DA charged four suspects involvement in another jewelry scam after one of the victim's outsmarted them.

See also: Police Warn Residents of Weird Chinese Ghost Scams

Ying Liu Tam, 38, and Ah Chung Liu, 48, are charged with four felony counts including grand theft, extortion, attempted extortion and attempted grand theft. Mudi Wu, 44, is being charged with two felony counts of attempted extortion and attempted grand theft. Yong Hua Zeng, 53, was charged with two felony counts of extortion and grand theft.

The M.O. was the same as the last Chinese ghost scam from earlier this summer, where the suspects duped dozens of elderly Asian women to hand over their cash and valuables. In total, the suspects made off with more than $1 million, according to police. In September, three more women were arrested on suspicion of stealing victim's money after telling them there were evil spirits attached to them. One victim alone lost $35,000.

Since then, the cops and the DA have been hosting community meetings to educate residents about this crafty scam. But on Nov. 10, the scammers struck again, targeting elderly Chinese women at the Alemany Farmer's Market.

The first victim was approached by three of the defendants who told her that she was plagued by "evil spirits" and that a family member was in danger. They told her that she could save this family member, but she had to get her money and valuables and bring those things back for a blessing.

Frightened by the thought of evil spirits, the victim headed home to get her valuables.

While in route to her house, the victim recalled having just heard a warning on the news about this kind of scam. So instead of going home, the victim went to Ingleside Police Station and reported the scam.

The cops responded to the market, where the victim identified the suspects. Police noted a male suspect, Defendant Zeng, with another woman later identified as a second victim. Upon seeing police, all four suspects began running toward a cab and jumped in. Police stopped the cab and found property and money belonging to the second victim, who had just delivered her money to the suspects after they told her about the evil spirits in her family.

The defendants appeared in court yesterday where they pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $200,000 for Ying Liu and Ah Chung Liu, and $100,000 for Mudi Wu and Yong Hua Zeng.

The defendants are due back in court this morning.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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