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Top fraudster in student's death gets life

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-20 07:10

7 gang members convicted; father says he'll tell daughter when visiting her tomb

The ringleader of a telecom fraud gang blamed in the death of a promising young student in East China has been sentenced to life in prison.

Chen Wenhui, 22, who also illegally obtained personal data, was among seven people sentenced at Linyi Intermediate People's Court in Shandong province on Wednesday. The others received prison terms of three to 15 years.

The gang cheated many victims out of a total of more than 560,000 yuan ($83,000) from November 2015 to August 2016.

More than 23,000 calls were made in which scammers posed as educational, financial or real estate officials.

"Their major targets were college-bound students," the court said in a statement on Wednesday.

The case took on national significance in August when one victim, Xu Yuyu, an 18-year-old university candidate from Linyi, died of cardiac arrest after being conned out of 9,900 yuan she had saved for her college tuition.

"The scam was devised by Chen, and Xu's death was linked to the anxiety created by his telecom fraud," the court said.

Chen and his gang called the student on Aug 19 and told her she would receive about 2,600 yuan in student aid after transferring her tuition into an account they provided.

She transferred the money. She had applied for student aid from a local educational authority two days before the scammers' call, according to the court. Her personal information was among more than 10,000 bits of information on people that Chen had illegally obtained online.

At a hearing on June 27, expert witnesses testified that Xu's death resulted from the great pressure and sadness she felt after being defrauded. The court said it agreed, given that "Xu was in good health and no problems were found in an earlier checkup".

Xu Lianbin, the student's father, said he was satisfied with the verdict. "I was nervous before the announcement. I plan to visit my daughter's tomb later and tell her about the judgment," he said.

Under Chinese law, Chen faced a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment because the number of calls made were deemed to be "extremely large" and the leading role he played was "extremely serious".

A judicial interpretation regarding the protection of citizens' information says Chen, of Fujian province, should also face a prison term of up to seven years for the information he illegally purchased.

"Considering these factors, as well as our country's requirement of strictly punishing telecom scammers, we sentenced Chen to life in prison," the court said.

Hong Daode, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said Chen's sentence is reasonable. "Some losses brought by telecom fraud cannot be recovered, and our judicial system calls for heavy penalties for defrauders whose offenses cause others' deaths."

The court also confiscated all of Chen's assets, and the others were fined from 100,000 to 600,000 yuan. None of those convicted, ranging in age from 20 to 30, have stated whether they will appeal the sentence, the court said

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