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Chinatown's 'Evil Spirits' Scammers Indicted on Grand Larceny Charges

By Mathew Katz | June 27, 2013 2:22pm
 Alleged scammers in Chintatown tried to swipe valuables and cash, officials said.
Alleged scammers in Chintatown tried to swipe valuables and cash, officials said.
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NEW YORK CITY — A grand jury has indicted five Chinese nationals for allegedly swindling cash and jewelry from at least one Chinatown resident in exchange for promises to rid the victim of phony "evil spirits."

A quintet of alleged scammers were indicted this week on attempted grand larceny in the third degree for attempting to steal thousands of dollars from a 67-year-old woman by trying to convince her that she needed their help shedding the bogus spirits.

The NYPD arrested Jun Liang, 44, Xiumei He, 39, Yae Chen, 46, Huahuo Chem, 50, and Jingchang Quan, 44, for the scam in early June.

The group initially approached the 67-year-old victim on June 3 near 2 Elizabeth St. and told her they sensed evil spirits on her. They said that, in order to be cleansed of them, she would have to fill a bag with money and valuables that they could pray over, prosecutors said.

The victim grew suspicious and reported the scam to the NYPD's 5th Precinct, then decided to place fake money and valuables into her bag and return to meet the scammers, prosecutors said.

When the woman met the group again in Chatham Square, they pretended to carry out a "cleansing ritual" and swiped her bag, before cops swept in and arrested all five defendants.

According to cops, the group used a similar tactic to con more than 60 elderly people in the city's Chinese neighborhoods and managed to steal over $1.8 million in cash and over half a million dollars in jewelry.

“Scam artists are not welcome on the streets of Manhattan,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement.

“The defendants are accused of trying to reel in their victim by claiming they possessed the ability to chase away evil spirits. Fortunately for the victim, she did not take their bait, and was able to alert law enforcement to the scam before the theft was complete."

Vance's office said that there are likely other scammers working this angle in the area and warned locals to watch out for similar scams on the street.