Three Women Charged in Jewelry Scam Targeting Chinese Community

May 17, 2012

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167
ADA Alex Bastian, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1931

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – District Attorney George Gascón joined Police Chief Greg Suhr today to announce the latest developments in a jewelry scam targeting women and elderly victims in the Chinese community. Three women have been charged in connection with stealing over $100,000 worth of cash and jewelry from five victims.

“This case shows how far people are willing to go to make a quick dollar. In many of these cases, the loss to these victims is not just money or jewelry, but rather their livelihood and priceless family heirlooms,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “I am here today to say that defrauding the elderly and vulnerable will not be tolerated.”

Three defendants have been charged in their involvement in the scam. Huifei Lin, age 42, has been charged with a total of 14 felonies. She has been charged with 4 felony counts of grand theft, 5 felony counts of extortion, 3 felony counts of defrauding an elder, 1 felony count of robbery and 1 felony count of causing injury to an elder. Caiqiong Chen, age 43, and Lirong Lin, age 57, have each been charged with 7 felonies. They are each charged with 3 felony counts of grand theft, 3 felony counts of extortion, and 1 felony count of defrauding an elder.

The scams took place earlier this year and targeted elderly Chinese women. Victims were approached on the street and were told they were plagued by evil spirits and that their families were in danger. Defendants allegedly would befriend victims and convince them a “purification” ceremony was needed to lift the evil spirits. Victims were instructed to bring all their jewelry and money in a bag to a specified meeting location. During the “purification” ceremony, Defendants would replace the items in the bag when the victim wasn’t looking. Victims were instructed not to look in the bag for a certain period of time.

District Attorney George Gascón called it “a classic bait and switch scam” that comes on the heels of Elder Abuse Prevention month. San Francisco has one of the highest concentrations of seniors living independently, and is home to an increasingly aging population with a high concentration of non-English speaking seniors. District Attorney Gascón stressed the importance of being vigilant about potential scams out there and to report any type of fraud or scam to the San Francisco Police Department, at (415) 553-0123; for Cantonese please call (415) 553-9212.

Defendants were arraigned on May 15, 2012 in Department 11. Bail was set at $740,000 for Defendant Huifei Lin, and $495,000 apiece for Defendants Caigiong Chen and Lirong Lin. Defendants are due in court to set a preliminary hearing on June 14, 2012 in Department 11. San Francisco Police Department Inspectors Julie Yee and Kim Lewis are assigned on the case.

Cheryl Matthews is the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting this case.