Vancouver Police say there may be more victims of a blessing scam or evil spirit scam that has robbed people of significant amounts of cash and jewellery.
Three women have now been arrested in connection with the scam, which came under investigation on July 8.
The Vancouver Police Financial Crime Unit began the investigation into a group of women believed to be involved in the scam, which typically targets elderly Asian women.
Victims are approached on the street by members of the group, who convince them that an evil spirit is following them and will harm members of their family unless a blessing ceremony is performed to remove the spirit. The “ceremony” requires the victim to place all their money and jewellery in a bag to be blessed. When the bag is given back to the victim, they are instructed not to open it for several days and not to tell family members. When the bag is finally opened, it is empty and the suspects are long gone.
Police say similar scams were reported in 2013 and they issued warnings and arrested several people. Four victims have come forward in these most recent incidents, and each has reported being defrauded out of $10,000 to $20,000 in money and jewellery.
The Vancouver Police identified and recommended criminal charges against the three women believed to have been operating this scam in the Lower Mainland from mid-July to early August. Warrants were issued for their arrests and all three were arrested by Peel Regional Police as they tried to board a plane at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
Hailan Lu, 53, Meizhan Pan, 57, and 61-year-old Rong Lin, have been charged with extortion and fraud. All three women remain in custody awaiting transportation back to Vancouver for a court appearance.
Anyone who believes they have been the victim of this crime, or who knows of a family member who may have been a victim in these recent cases, is asked to contact Detective Constable Ivan DeSilva with the VPD Financial Crime Unit at (604)-717-3459.
The Vancouver Police Department would like to remind the public of the following:
- avoid speaking with strangers making offers of good fortune
- do not provide money or valuables to be “blessed”
- call 9-1-1 if approached by strangers making any unusual offers.