On Transnational Fraud in the Disguise of Love & Marriage
The author lists two categories of transnational fraud he has handled i.e. regular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage, and irregular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage. Both illustrate the modus operandi of the fraudsters in these categories of cases, which the author explains by using his working experiences in dealing with these types of cases. The author points out the legal foundations for Chinese police to file and investigate such cases and emphasizes the necessity of cracking down on these types of crimes.
Gong Chu (Oscar)
Partner, DeHeng Law Offices (Shenzhen)
PhD. In Law, Renmin University of China
Practice scope: Dispute resolution
Mobile: 13590496399 (WeChat)
The author has handled many transnational fraud cases during his legal career as a foreign legal service lawyer. Many of those transnational fraud cases involved the disguise of love and marriage. Hereinafter, the author makes a summary analysis on these categories of cases based on his history of handling such cases.
II. Regular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage
Regular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage can be committed by a single criminal suspect, or with the help of conspirators, or even through an intermediary; like so-called, “translation companies”. The criminals register their accounts on international dating websites and publish leads for dating, thus leading to fraud in the disguise of love and marriage.
For the most part, Chinese females with international dating website profiles have pure intentions to find a lover whom they aim to develop a relationship into marriage with. Not a few mainland Chinese females successfully get married to foreigners and ultimately immigrate. Criminals attract victims to contact on their own initiatives with the purpose of defrauding money or assets from them. The criminals take sexy personal photos, or use photos of other females, sometimes even making false personal introductions on the web pages, thus using sex charm to lure in males.
After an unsuspecting victim takes the bait, a criminal who masters a foreign language will defraud the victim on her own by communicating directly with him. Those who do not speak a foreign language can communicate with the victims using a so-called, “translation company” in defrauding them. In practice, the former category is riddled with more fraud cases.
Victims of this category of fraud cases are generally males from Europe, North America and Australia, etc. The age groups vary. However, middle-aged and senior citizens from these regions tend to be the most targeted group.
The scamming is committed step by step with a plan that is adjusted agilely to practical conditions, with the overall goal of extorting money and assets from the victims to the largest extent. The following is an example of how this scam works. Mr. M is from Country D in Europe. Mr. M was born and raised in Country J located in the middle Europe. Later he stole across the border of Country D, eventually becoming a citizen of Country D, and finding work as an engineer with decent income. At this point Mr. M was well over fifty; still single and still unmarried. One day after reviewing an international dating website, he found himself attracted to a photo of a young, pretty and sexy Chinese female who was seeking a partner. Mr. M wrote to this lady and she responded to him warmly. During their communication, Mr. M wired money to her and eventually flew to China to meet her. While in China, Mr. M was taken to luxury shops, where he bought precious items as gifts to her. After some time, the woman began to talk with Mr. M about getting married with him and moving to Europe. M became very happy and excited, and wired her a big sum of money. The large sum of money equaled several years of his income, but it was intended to be used for paying off the mortgage to her apartment, so that she could then sell the apartment. After selling the apartment, she would be able to move without worry to Europe with him. However, after the money was wired into her account, this woman suddenly changed her attitude, found some excuses, and eventually cut off communication with Mr. M. Obviously upset with her, Mr. M came to China to report to the police.
While conducting an investigation Mr. M’s lawyer found that this woman had been discussing love and marriage with males from different countries, and had successfully extorted different sums of money from these victims as well. Police, after questioning the victim, filed the case and began a cyber pursuit. Unfortunately by this point, the woman had already disappeared. It was later discovered that she had fled China for another country, by marrying another foreigner.
Compared to the big amount defrauded from Mr. M, generally other victims exist as well, with sums defrauded differ. Due to various reasons, victims often give up the option of coming to China to report the crimes to police.
One distinct feature in the disguise of love and marriage that makes it different from other types of fraud, is that in this category the woman and the man do meet each other. Without meeting face to face the “girlfriend”, or even having intimate behaviors with her, normally money defrauded from the victims will not easily reach the criterion of “huge” or “especially huge”.
Mr. M once mentioned that when he experienced his only intimate interaction with his “girlfriend”, he felt that the companion was not the same woman who received him and took him for shopping in China.
II. Irregular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage
As the second category of fraud in the disguise of love and marriage to be analyzed in this article, the most characterized irregular fraud in the disguise of love and marriage can be named as a Series of Cases in which so-called “Maids” defraud under the pretense of gold.
This category of fraud cases are committed by fraudulent groups in the following ways: a criminal, claiming that she is from the Philippines and works as a maid at a wealthy mainland Chinese family home, publishes sexy intimate photos at international dating websites, allegedly seeking a partner. When a victim contacts her, she will timely propose to meet with him in his city to discuss marriage. Monies are transferred from the victim’s account on the pretext of paying for the costs associated with her passport, visa, and travel agency expenses. After providing the funds, a notification letter is sent out from the so-called travel agency to the victim, telling him the alleged flight date of his girlfriend. The “girlfriend” will also confirm by forwarding him emails from the fake travel agency. Later on, the victim finds he is unable to get to his girlfriend anymore; hence he contacts the travel agency and is told after a so-called check by the travel agency, that she has gotten into a big trouble and has been detained by Chinese customs.
The victim asks more questions and is told by the travel agency that she was given a big block of gold from an employer who has been utterly satisfied with her service. The victim is led to believe that she has been thinking about giving her boyfriend the block of gold as a gift. Unexpectedly however, the gold was found and held by Chinese customs. This gold is of substantial weight, and has a high value. The victim is told that it will be released to her after a sum of tax money, or a fine is paid to the customs. The victim hearing that this gold is a gift for him, gets greedy, and while he may still be eager to meet his beauty, he ultimately repeatedly wires money to the fraudsters. The wire transfers continue until the fraudsters run out of excuses, until the victim’s bank account goes empty, or until he ultimately realizes that he may have been scammed.
At the beginning when the author met such a case, foul play was not immediately clear. However, after an investigation by the lawyer, it was clear that the victim had been scammed due to the discovery of fraudulent customs documents. The lawyer was also able to easily discover at a single glance whether other relevant documents provided by the fraudsters were legitimate or fraudulent. Even some old-handed fraudsters claimed to meet with the lawyer for verification, nobody showed up eventually.
Due to the lawyer’s extensive experience with these types of cases, the lawyer, being contacted again by another victim, will always directly warn the victim that it is a sheer fraud. Unfortunately, many victims don’t listen to the lawyer, and will continue to routinely send money to the fraudsters. Under these types of conditions, it would be better if the lawyer charges upfront fees, and handles the cases like the previous ones. That way the victims may be incentivized to take the lawyer’s advice more seriously. The fraudster groups are professional scammers, who know the psychological activities of their victims very well. They divide their fraud work among themselves, and the victims are contacted by various fraudsters with different roles. They have specially set up websites as well. All these in combination lead to a result where the victims can hardly be disillusioned by anyone else, needless to say by himself.
Apart from “The gold has been detained by customs” fraud scenario, other pretenses such as “Your girlfriend was knocked down by a car on her way to the airport, and cash is urgently needed for her medical treatment”, etc., with highly similar modus operandi.
IV. Analysis and suggestions
Category I sees fraud crimes of Chinese citizens against foreign victims, and Category II sees foreign fraudster groups in which some members can be Chinese citizens, but the principals are usually foreigners, defrauding foreign victims. According to Articles 2, 6, 266 (see below) of Criminal Law of People’s Republic of China, the Chinese police should file and investigate all these cases.
In practice, Category I cases are easier to be accepted by police units from territory to territory in mainland China and investigated, usually with the precondition that a victim comes to China to report his case. As for Category II cases, the author has yet to see a case filed or solved. The detailed positions of the criminal suspects are extremely difficult to ascertain, but a Chinese lawyer also needs a police unit to intervene on its own initiative; to pin down information such as the IP addresses of the travel agency’s website, the fraudsters’ emails, and the GPS positioning of the phone calls, etc. Sometimes, clues for the police to file and investigate a case already exist; such as the money receiving information provided by the fraudsters to the victims, that can clearly tell the address of the bank office with which the fraudsters’ bank account was opened.
The author once filed a complaint against a fraudster group on behalf of a Mr. P at the website of Internet Crime Report Center. The author provided a case story, power of attorney, a letter of introduction from the lawyer’s firm, a lawyer certificate copy, proofs, the victim’s bank slips, the beneficiary bank information, the website of the fraudsters, and even included email addresses plus telephone numbers, etc. Unfortunately, he saw an unsolved result.
On-site complaint and internet complaint are both fruitless, leading to the conclusion that these two categories of transnational fraud are condoned in the territory of mainland China and are going rampant. These cases, generally involving amounts reaching “huge” or “especially huge”, are enough to be deemed as “big cases” or “major cases” to which sentences of life imprisonment are to be meted out. In reality the fact that the fraudsters encounter little resistance from Chinese police, whose task forces at various local levels even shirk their duties with various excuses, will surely damage the dignity of our country’s laws and judicial sovereignty.
Relevant law articles
CRIMINAL LAW OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Article 2 The aim of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China is to use criminal punishments to fight against all criminal acts in order to safeguard security of the State, to defend the State power of the people's democratic dictatorship and the socialist system, to protect property owned by the State, and property collectively owned by the working people and property privately owned by citizens, to protect citizens' rights of the person and their democratic and other rights, to maintain public and economic order, and to ensure the smooth progress of socialist construction.
Article 6 This Law shall be applicable to anyone who commits a crime within the territory and territorial waters and space of the People's Republic of China, except as otherwise specifically provided by law.
This Law shall also be applicable to anyone who commits a crime on board a ship or aircraft of the People's Republic of China.
If a criminal act or its consequence takes place within the territory or territorial waters or space of the People's Republic of China, the crime shall be deemed to have been committed within the territory and territorial waters and space of the People's Republic of China.
Article 266 Whoever swindles public or private money or property, if the amount is relatively large, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also, or shall only, be fined; if the amount is huge, or if there are other serious circumstances, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years and shall also be fined; if the amount is especially huge, or if there are other especially serious circumstances, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment and shall also be fined or be sentenced to confiscation of property, except as otherwise specifically provided in this Law.