July 1, 2022

Nine people were arrested for cheating over HK$10 million from at least 35 men in romance scams, where the fraudsters pretended to be local women stranded overseas who were in dire need of financial assistance after catching Covid. 

The nine arrestees included four men and five women aged 15 to 69. One was the syndicate’s mastermind, followed by five members and three stooge account holders. They were arrested for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. 

Police continued that the operation codenamed Starhunt is ongoing, and more arrests may be made. 

According to chief inspector Ng Kei-chun, the crimes occurred between August 2020 and January this year. Fraudsters first pretended to be Hong Kong women who were working overseas and met the victims, aged 20 to 37, through various online dating apps. 

After they developed a “romantic relationship” with the victims, they would ask them for money using different excuses, including that they caught Covid-19 in Southeast Asia countries and could not return to the city. 

As the victims wired the money into the fraudsters’ accounts, the other fraudsters would approach the victims, pretending to be the colleagues of their “online girlfriends” with fake documents and name cards. 

They claimed they would repay the debts to the victims for their “girlfriends” but asked the victims to pay a certain amount as a guarantee, gaining the victims’ trust with more…

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