New York: A 61-year-old Chinese man pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing $60,000 from a New York grandmother after he promised to bless her son`s alleged evil spirits away, prosecutors said.
The defendant, Xue Fang Zhou, admitted grand larceny in the third degree, in the latest in a series of convictions linked to Chinese blessing scams that have blighted cities in North America.
Prosecutors say versions of the scam have cropped up in cities with significant Chinese populations such as Boston and San Francisco, as well as Toronto in Canada.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the retired, 65-year-old grandmother lost nearly all her life savings in the October 2014 incident.
"Variations of this scam have led to thousands of dollars in losses for elderly victims here in New York and across the country," Vance said.
The elderly, superstitious and the Chinese immigrant community are at particular risk, he cautioned.
Zhou engineered an introduction to the grandmother near Manhattan`s Chinatown, informing her that her son was cursed with bad luck.
The son was at risk of harm, Zhou said, unless a blessing ritual was performed over the victim`s money.
The victim collected her valuables so Zhou could perform the purported blessing, but promptly discovered that her bag of $60,000 and jewelry had been switched with a bag of water bottles.
Zhou is the sixth person to plead guilty in Manhattan to crimes related to blessing scams in the last two years, prosecutors said.