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JOB SCAM/Leaders of deadly extortion ring sentenced to life in prison

11/22/2023 03:17 PM
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Extortion and fraud ringleader Fu Yu-lin (second left) is taken back to a detention center after appearing at the Shilin District Court in Taipei on Dec. 28, 2022. CNA file photo
Extortion and fraud ringleader Fu Yu-lin (second left) is taken back to a detention center after appearing at the Shilin District Court in Taipei on Dec. 28, 2022. CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) Two leaders of a northern Taiwan extortion and fraud ring that was tied to the deaths of three people and the kidnapping of dozens of others have been sentenced to life in prison, according to the Shilin District Court in Taipei.

In a verdict issued Wednesday, the court handed down life sentences to ringleaders Fu Yu-lin (傅榆藺) and Chen Hua-wei (陳樺韋), while 27 others involved in the ring received sentences ranging in length from 14 months to 29.5 years.

The ruling, issued after an 11-month joint trial of the 29 suspects, found Fu and Chen guilty on over 300 criminal counts each, among them kidnapping resulting in death, fraud, armed robbery, forced drug abuse, organized crime, and improper disposal of a body.

Chen Hua-wei (right) is taken back to a detention center after appearing at the Shilin District Court in Taipei on Dec. 28, 2022. CNA file photo
Chen Hua-wei (right) is taken back to a detention center after appearing at the Shilin District Court in Taipei on Dec. 28, 2022. CNA file photo

Tu Cheng-che (杜承哲), a third leader of the crime ring who allegedly gave orders to Fu and Chen, was captured in April after going on the run and is being tried separately.

In the case in question, Fu, Chen and others began luring victims in September 2022 to rented residences in Taoyuan's Zhongli and New Taipei's Tamsui districts on the pretense of holding interviews for high-paying jobs.

Other victims, meanwhile, were tricked by online offers to "rent out" their inactive bank accounts for large sums of money.

In both cases, the people who responded to the ads were taken and held against their will by the perpetrators, who took their bank passbooks, account passwords, and IDs, in two locations for periods ranging from less than a week to more than a month.

According to prosecutors, the stolen bank accounts were then used to commit fraud and launder money, as part of a broader scheme that took in some NT$390 million (US$12.4 million) in illicit gains from over 250 victims.

During their captivity, victims said they were frequently fed only one meal a day, forced to take sleeping pills and drugs to keep them in a state of lethargy, and were beaten, tasered, or pepper-sprayed if they talked or did not follow orders.

Crime ringleader Tu Cheng-che (center) is apprehended by New Taipei's police force on April 11, 2023 File photo courtesy of Criminal Investigation Corps, New Taipei City Police Department
Crime ringleader Tu Cheng-che (center) is apprehended by New Taipei's police force on April 11, 2023 File photo courtesy of Criminal Investigation Corps, New Taipei City Police Department

Police who busted the case last November found 35 people being held in an apartment in Taoyuan and another 26 in Tamsui.

The criminal ring's operations also resulted in the deaths of three captives, according to the court, with two bodies later discovered hidden in Taoyuan's Guishan District and one in Nantou County.

Authorities said the body in Nantou was that of a 38-year-old man, who fell to his death from the 11th floor after crawling out a bathroom window in an attempt to escape on Oct. 17, 2022.

The two others, a 45-year-old woman and a 57-year-old man, both suffered from chronic conditions and died after being held for 32 days and 16 days, respectively.

(By Hsieh Hsing-en and Matthew Mazzetta)

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