A 41-year-old woman with a master’s degree lost a total of HK$1.07 million to a pair of swindlers, including a foreigner with whom she had become romantically involved.
One of the suspects, Bill O. Marshall, 48, was found guilty by a district court of theft and possession of fake notes on Friday, Apple Daily reports.
It turned out that Marshall is a torture claimant from Liberia who has been staying in Hong Kong since 2008.
The court heard earlier that the victim, surnamed Bo, met a Caucasian on social media in May last year and the two eventually became long-distance lovers.
The man, who called himself Franklin, told her he was a medical doctor working for the World Health Organization in Syria.
He promised to come to Hong Kong so see her, but told her he would send her a package containing US$1 million in cash from Britain before he arrived.
Acting on the man’s instructions, Bo wired HK$33,000 to the UK to ensure that the package was taken care of.
Later she got a call from Marshall, who pretended to be a United Nations diplomat and asked her to pay HK$160,000 for the package to clear customs.
On June 26 Marshall brought the package to the victim’s home. But when they opened the package, it was found that the US dollar bills in it were all blackened.
The defendant asked her for more than HK$880,000 to buy some solvent to clean the bills.
Later, she told a friend about the transactions, and was told that she might have fallen prey to swindlers.
She decided to report the case to the police on July 31, and Marshall was arrested on Aug. 5.
Police found 262 fake US$100 bills at the defendant’s home and lab tests confirmed the liquid used to blacken the bills was tincture of iodine tincture while the expensive solvent was only vitamin C fluid.
The defendant, who is unmarried but has several children with different women, told the court that the man with whom the victim had fallen in love planned the whole thing and he only knew him in June, Ming Pao Daily reported.
He said he had been induced to join him in swindling Bo because he was in financial distress and needed money.
The judge remanded him in custody ahead of sentencing on Monday.