Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of XUE FANG ZHOU, 61, for stealing approximately $60,000 from the victim of a scam involving a so-called blessing ritual, commonly known as an “Evil Spirits” or “Chinese Blessing” scam. The defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and is expected to be sentenced on June 26, 2015.
“The victim in this case was a retired grandmother who lost nearly all of her hard-earned life savings,” said District Attorney Vance. “Variations of this scam have led to thousands of dollars in losses for elderly victims here in New York and across the country. Scam artists may specifically target the elderly, superstitious, or members of the Chinese immigrant community. I encourage members of the public to be wary of strangers requesting money or valuables for cleansing, blessing, or other suspicious purposes.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, ZHOU was introduced to the 65-year-old victim by two unapprehended individuals who approached her near 190 Hester Street and struck up a conversation. Following the introduction, the defendant informed the victim that her son was cursed with bad luck and would be at risk of harm unless ZHOU was able to perform a blessing ritual over the victim’s money and valuables, which would supposedly banish the bad luck. The defendant then instructed the victim to bring money and valuables to an agreed upon location where ZHOU performed the purported blessing ritual. However, shortly after the ritual had been performed, the victim discovered that her bag of valuables containing approximately $60,000 in cash and jewelry had been switched with a bag containing only water bottles.
In the last two years, ZHOU is the sixth defendant in Manhattan to plead guilty to crimes related to blessing scams.
Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Yu handled the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Archana Rao, Principal Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the NYPD’s 5th Precinct Detective Squad and Organized Crime Investigations Division, U.S Federal Bureau of Investigations–New York Field Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center, and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office for their assistance with the investigation.
XUE FANG ZHOU, D.O.B. 10/24/1953
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 1 count