Three women have been arrested and police are looking for additional victims who may have been conned out of significant amounts of cash and jewellery.

On July 18, 2015, the Vancouver Police Financial Crime Unit began an investigation into a group of women believed to be involved in a crime commonly referred to as a “blessing scam”or “evil spirit scam,” which typically targets elderly Asian women.

Victims are approached on the street by members of the group, who convince them that an evil spirit is following them and will harm members of their family unless a blessing ceremony is performed to remove the spirit. The “ceremony” requires the victim to place all their money and jewellery in a bag to be blessed. When the bag is given back to the victim, they are instructed not to open it for several days and not to tell family members. When the bag is finally opened, it is empty and the suspects are long gone.

Similar scams reported in Vancouver in 2013 led to a number of warnings from police and the arrest of several people. Four victims have come forward in these most recent incidents, and each has reported being defrauded out of $10,000 to $20,000 in money and jewellery.

The VPD identified and recommended criminal charges against three women believed to have been operating this scam in the Lower Mainland from mid-July to early August. Warrants were issued, and all three accused were arrested by Peel Regional Police as they tried to board a plane at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

Hailan Lu, 53, Meizhan Pan, 57, and 61-year-old Rong Lin, have been charged with extortion and fraud. All three women remain in custody awaiting transportation back to Vancouver for a court appearance.

VPD investigators believe there are other victims who have been defrauded by this group, but have not yet reported anything to the police.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of this crime, or who knows of a family member who may have been a victim in these recent cases, is asked to contact Detective Constable Ivan DeSilva with the VPD Financial Crime Unit at (604)-717-3459.

The Vancouver Police Department would like to remind the public of the following:

  • avoid speaking with strangers making offers of good fortune
  • do not provide money or valuables to be “blessed”
  • call 9-1-1 if approached by strangers making any unusual offers