8th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) A 24-year-old woman has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the District Court for her role in a telephone scam that defrauded a family of HK$20 million. Woo Wing-sum was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud after she posed as an official and lured a 19-year-old girl to a hotel, where she was held captive while a fake kidnapping was staged to extort ransom money from her family.
The trial heard that Woo and her accomplices, including a man named Lau Kin, had conspired to defraud the father of the victim by claiming that they had kidnapped his daughter and demanding the ransom. Woo had pretended to be a special agent and international police officer to lure the victim to a hotel, where she was detained and not allowed to contact the outside world. Later, other members of the group sent nude photos of the victim to her father and demanded the ransom.
The victim, who had come to Hong Kong from mainland China to study, received a call from a group claiming to be the police investigating her for money laundering. They demanded that she cooperate with them, including stripping naked during a video call so that they could compare her body to that of a suspected criminal. Woo had claimed that she was also a victim of the same scam, but the judge rejected her defence and said that she had willingly participated in the fraud for money.
The judge said that the case had several aggravating factors, including the involvement of more than four people in the criminal group, the meticulous planning and precise execution of the fraud scheme, and the use of a fake kidnapping to coerce the victim’s father into paying the ransom. In addition, Woo had rented an office and made constant phone calls to the victim, and had shown a fake international police ID to the victim. The victim’s nude video was also captured and her parents were informed of the fake kidnapping, causing them serious mental distress.
The judge said that the court would impose more severe and deterrent sentences for such despicable scams to prevent innocent people from being victimised. Telephone fraud cases are considered even more serious than street scams and require higher sentencing standards. The judge criticised Woo for being greedy and said that she had willingly participated in the fraud scheme for quick money. He also pointed out that she had misled the police and the court throughout the investigation and had shown no remorse, making it difficult to accept her claim that she was a low-risk repeat offender. Despite her good background, the judge sentenced Woo to three and a half years in prison.