Most of us are familiar with the “Nigerian prince” scam where would-be victims receive a random email from someone claiming to have millions of dollars but needs help to move their fortune out of Africa via a small donation. One woman in China put her own spin on the scam by claiming to be a Chinese princess in need of funds to bribe officials to release her inherited $27 billion in assets. Seems legit, right?
Wang Fenyang, a 49-year-old farmer from the Henan Province, claimed to be Princess Changping, a descendant of the Aisin Gioro family which ruled China during the Qing Dynasty until 1911 (Princess Changping is the name of a Ming Dynasty princess who died in 1646 at the age of 17).
Along with her accomplice, a 47-year-old unemployed man from Xi’an, Wang claimed that as Princess Changping, her family left her 175 billion yuan ($27.5 billion) in assets but it was seized by authorities. She claimed she needed money to bribe officials into releasing her assets back to her, which, upon their return, she would reward her investors with three times what they gave her. Wang and her accomplice went as far as to create a company to buy fake gold bars and counterfeit cash to tell victims that was just a small portion of the princess’s wealth.
Her scam went on for over a year between February 2013 and July 2014. Wang scammed people out of a total of 2.3 million yuan ($361,000). She used the money to buy a new car and put a down payment on an apartment.
When authorities finally caught the fake princess and raided her home after complaints, they found what appeared to be 41 gold bars, ancient looking keys, thousands in counterfeit U.S. dollars and even a fake treasure map which she would offer to investors as collateral.
On Monday, the People’s Court of Lianhu District in Xi’an sentenced Wang to 13.5 years in prison while her accomplice received 12 years. The two scammers were also ordered to pay back the money they stole and were slapped with nearly $80,000 in fines.