FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Three Defendants Indicted For Allegedly Stealing
$85,000 from Senior Citizen in “Chinese Blessing Scam”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that two women and a man have been indicted for grand larceny for stealing $65,000 in cash and $20,000 in jewelry from a 62-year-old Chinese woman after convincing her there was a curse on her family that they could help to remove through an elaborate scam.
District Attorney Thompson said, “This so-called “blessing scam” is unfortunately common in Asian communities and its targets are usually elderly immigrant women. People should be aware of these con men and women trying to swindle them out of their hard-earned money. I urge those in the Chinese community to warn their vulnerable family members to avoid falling prey to such schemes.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Yan Chen, 46; Yacheng Chen, 50; and Yuqub Liang, 57. Liang was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a five-count indictment in which she is charged with second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property and two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Bail was set at $500,000. Yan Chen was arraigned last month and ordered held on $250,000 bail. Yacheng Chen will be arraigned on September 28, 2016.
The District Attorney said that on July 29, 2016, in the vicinity of Avenue R and East 21st Street in Sheepshead Bay, defendants Yan Chen and Yuqub Liang allegedly approached the victim, a 62-year-old Chinese immigrant, several times and engaged her in conversation, gaining her trust. Defendant Yacheng Chen allegedly acted as a lookout. Yan Chen allegedly posed as a clairvoyant and convinced the victim that she or a member of her family would die because of a curse.
The defendants allegedly convinced the victim that in order to rid herself of the curse she needed to gather large sums of cash and jewelry, according to the investigation, and bring them to be blessed in order to remove the evil spirits surrounding her family. The victim went to her home, where she gathered $15,000 cash and the key to her safety deposit box. The victim then walked to her bank, where she withdrew an additional $50,000 and approximately $20,000 worth of jewelry from her safe deposit box.
The group then met up with defendant Yan Chen who, according to the investigation, instructed the victim to place the cash and jewels into a bag for Chen to perform a “blessing” to remove the curse. The defendants then allegedly stole the cash and jewels, and placed the bag on the victim’s shoulder and told her not to open it for at least several days in order to break the curse. The victim opened the bag that evening and found bottles of water. All of her valuables were missing. She then contacted the police.
The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Dimitrij Prokopez and Sergeant Sean O’Hara, of the NYPD’s Grand Larceny Division, under the supervision of Sergeant Gregory Marotta, Lieutenant Robert Rattigan, Inspector John M. Denesopolis and Assistant Chief Brian McCarthy of the Criminal Enterprise Investigations.
The District Attorney thanked Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Mo, of the Immigrant Affairs Unit, and Deputy Chief Gloria Garcia, of the Financial Frauds Bureau, both of the New York County District Attorney’s Office, for their assistance in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jose Interiano of the District Attorney’s Immigrant Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kin Ng, Unit Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.