An accused scam artist has been charged with grand larceny as a hate crime after reportedly stealing $160,000 worth of cash and jewelry from elderly female Chinese immigrants.
Xuekun Su, 44, was arraigned in Brooklyn on Thursday on four counts of grand larceny as a hate crime. The relatively unheard-of offense was levied against Su after she and her cohorts targeted victims due to their ethnicity, age and religious beliefs, according to prosecutors. Su is also facing grand larceny as a standalone charge.
Su is accused of approaching a 61-year-old Chinese woman and posing as a clairvoyant in order to convince the woman that she or her family members were in mortal danger due to a curse that only she could lift, the New York Daily News reported. She is also accused of stealing from another family.
Su convinced the woman to compile all of her valuable belongings and cash into a special blessing bag that would be returned to them when the curse had been lifted. The victim handed over $140,000 in cash, along with several pieces of 24-carat gold jewelry, prosecutors said.
Su returned the bag to the woman and instructed her to not open it for several days for the blessing to work. When the victim opened it, she found it was only filled with empty water bottles.
Her second alleged victim was from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which is known to some as Brooklyn’s Chinatown. The 54-year-old Chinese woman was approached with the same claim of a family curse. This woman handed over $19,000 in cash along with jewelry that went into the bag. This woman too found herself the victim of theft.
Su’s lawyers defended her, claiming that she was brought into the country by smugglers who had promised her legal entry, but instead forced her into being a con artist.
“She was told she had to do certain things… She did not want to participate but did so. Ms. Su is not a danger to anyone,” defense attorney Morris Shamuil said, claiming her case was “not dissimilar from prostitution cases.”
The issue of con artists targeting religious, elderly members of the Chinese community has New York prosecutors concerned.
“This is the second blessing scam we’ve indicted in as many months, in which brazen con men and women walk off with the life savings of their victims,” Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “I urge those in the Chinese community to warn their vulnerable family members to be aware of these scams to avoid falling prey to them.”