San Francisco, CA. – Four thieves convicted of scamming Chinese senior citizens in a “blessing scam” have been sentenced by a judge in San Francisco on May 31st.
At the beginning of June, a jury found the four guilty of grand theft charges. This conviction marks the second one for fraud cases by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in the month of May.
Although cameras were allowed in the courtroom by the judge, he forbid them to show the faces of the four convicted criminals.
The group of four consists of one male and three females; all four of them had to have translators during their hearing. They stood by and listened while three of them were sentenced by the judge to two years in county jail and the other was sentenced to one year.
“The judge as well as the district attorney is sending a clear message to this type of behavior,” said the spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney, Alex Bastian.
The group of four were at a farmers market on Alemany Boulevard when they were arrested.
They were caught because while they were at the farmers market they came up to a woman named Susan Wong and attempted to befriend her by holding a long conversation with her. During the conversation one of them told Wong that she was a clairvoyant.
“Number three told me there’s going to be calamity in my household,” said Wong, with the help of a translator. “Your son is going to die in three days and my husband is going to get really ill.”
They told Wong that if she gave them her cash and jewelry they could banish the evil spirits that were going to do her family harm.
Wong feigned interest in their offer but left the farmers market and went directly to the police. She told them what she had been told and she had them follow her to the farmers market.
Arresting officers confiscated $47,000 in cash from the group, which had been scammed from a different victim by them.
While in court, in an effort to save his clients, one of their defense lawyers named Richard Shikman told the jury that the women were simply poor villagers who had been exploited by an organized crime group; the jury however was not convinced.
“They had difficult lives and there were certain pressures brought to bear upon them that caused them to get involved in this,” said Shikman.
It was discovered during the investigation of these four that this was not the first time they pulled this scam on people; two of the four face charges in New York and Los Angeles for the same scam.
A rally was held in Chinatown by the District Attorney’s office in an effort to warn Chinese senior citizens of frauds like this one and others similar in nature. Bags and brochures were handed out to them that contained two phone numbers to call, one being 911 and the other a District Attorney hotline.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr made it clear which number needed to be called first so that there would be no confusion:
“The call has to go to 911 for an immediate response so we can catch these people,” he said. “And then, certainly, it’s always a good idea to follow up with the DA’s office but that should not be the first call.”
There have been “blessing scams” happening in various other cities, including Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. As stated earlier, two members of this group of four have charges to take care of in different cities.
Of all the cities were this scam has been prevalent, San Francisco is the first to successfully obtain convictions for these fraud charges.