San Francisco, CA. – Four thieves convicted of scamming Chinese seniors in a “blessing scam” have been sentenced by a judge on May 31st.
At the beginning of June, a jury found the four guilty of grand theft charges. This May conviction marks the second one for fraud cases by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office that month.
Although the judge allowed cameras in the courtroom, he forbade them to show the faces of the four convicted criminals.
The group of four consists of one male and three females; all four had to have translators during their hearing. They stood by and listened while the judge sentenced three of them to two years in county jail. The last one received a one-year sentence.
Alex Bastian is the spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney. He said, “the judge, as well as the district attorney, is sending a clear message to this type of behavior.”
Police arrested the foursome at a farmers market on Alemany Boulevard.
Authorities arrested them at a farmers market thanks to a woman named Susan Wong. Wong was shopping at the farmer’s market when the scammers approached and attempted to befriend her. They involved her in a long conversation, during which one of them lied to Wong about being 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 her they could banish evil spirits that would harm her family. All she had to do was give them her cash and jewelry.
Wong feigned interest in their offer but left the farmers market and went directly to the police.
An Arrest Is Made
Upon hearing her report, police followed her back to the farmer’s market. The scammers were still there and were quickly arrested. Officers confiscated $47,000 in cash from the group, which they had scammed from a different victim by them.
While in court, to save his clients, one of their defense lawyers named Richard Shikman told the jury that the women were simply poor villagers exploited by an organized crime. However, this defense did not convince the jury.
“They had difficult lives, and there were certain pressures brought to bear upon them that caused them to get involved in this,” said Shikman.
During the investigation of these four, authorities discovered that this was not the first time they’ve scammed people this way. Two of the four face charges in New York and Los Angeles for the same scam.
The District Attorney’s office held a rally in Chinatown to warn Chinese senior citizens of these types of psychic scams. They handed out bags and brochures that contained two phone numbers to call. One being 911 and the other a District Attorney hotline.
To avoid any confusion, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr clarified what number callers should use first.
“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.”
“Blessing scams” have been happening in various 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 where this scam has been prevalent, San Francisco is the first to obtain convictions for these fraud charges successfully.