A Hong Kong man has been jailed for 16 months for duping 33 people out of more than HK$160,000 (US$20,600) by falsely claiming he had surgical masks for sale.
Kowloon City Court on Monday jailed Cheng Shing-to over the offences he first committed on January 27, five days after Hong Kong recorded its first coronavirus case.
The 32-year-old con artist was said to have posed as a seller of surgical masks on online shopping platform Carousell, claiming to offer a Japanese brand at HK$80 per box while prices soared because of a citywide shortage.
He successfully lured four men and 29 women, aged 18 to 50, into depositing HK$80 to HK$56,000 into his bank accounts, between January 27 and April 2.
Prosecutors said he surrendered to Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station on April 16, confessing to officers that he had used the ill-gotten gains on gambling. Defence lawyers said he was unable to compensate the victims after clearing his debts.
Cheng pleaded guilty on Monday to 33 counts of fraud before Principal Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee.
Defence lawyers said in mitigation that Cheng had committed the crime out of foolishness and he was sorry.
Yim set a starting point of two years’ prison – the highest a magistrate can impose – after hearing that Cheng had once been sentenced to probation over another offence in 2006. She shaved off eight months to reflect Cheng’s guilty plea.
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