NEW YORK—A group of alleged scam artists in Chinatown claiming the power to cleanse evil spirits have been indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney. The five defendants, all between the ages of 39 and 50, are being charged with trying to trick an elderly Chinese woman into giving them thousands of dollars to drive away evil spirits.
According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the group approached the 67-year-old woman and told her that they have the special ability to get rid of evil spirits. Vance said it is the type of crime that relies on the customs of insular immigrant communities, a lack of knowledge of the law, and cultural superstitions to be effective.
Apparently the group didn’t bargain with the woman, who was not identified by the D.A.’s office. The woman got wise to the fact that she was the target of a scam and turned the defendants in to the authorities.
All of the people allegedly involved—two men and three women—are being charged with perpetrating what’s commonly known as the “Evil Spirit” or “Chinese Blessing” scam.
The defendants were apprehended after the woman they targeted cooperated with NYPD’s 5th Precinct in Chinatown to use fake money and valuables to create the illusion of a transaction. After the defendants took the bag, they were immediately arrested.