Two women accused extorting cash and valuables from elderly Chinese women have been charged in connection with a fifth “blessing scam” in San Francisco, the District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
Chinese nationals Mudi Wu and Fuxi Dai, both 51, are facing 17 felony and two misdemeanor counts for allegedly stealing more than $200,000 in cash and tens of thousands in valuables during the holiday season.
Police arrested Wu and Dai in Los Angeles in connection with four of the scams as the pair prepared to board a flight bound for Hong Kong. The fifth victim came forward last week amid media attention to the arrests.
Blessing scams have been pulled off in San Francisco and elsewhere for years. The scams typically involve convincing an elderly person from China that either they or their loved ones are in danger. The victims are told to bring a bag full of cash and valuables to a location for a “blessing” that will keep the loved one from harm’s way. After the blessing, the victims are told to leave and not look in the bag, while the fraudsters make off with the goods.
“It is extremely troubling that elderly Chinese women are being targeted and exploited due to their cultural beliefs,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement. “We will continue to spread the word, but it’s incumbent upon us all to be good neighbors, and to make sure that the most vulnerable among us know about these scams.”
Wu and Dai on Monday pleaded not guilty to all charges including elder financial abuse, grand theft, conspiracy and extortion, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Both are being held in County Jail on $250,000.
Warrants for their arrest on similar charges were also issued out of San Mateo County on Friday Dec. 28.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the warrants were issued in connection with a Dec. 4 Daly City case in which they allegedly defrauded a 68-year-old woman of around $6,000.
Wu and Dai will be tried in San Mateo County in that case after the case in San Francisco has concluded, Wagstaffe said.