SINGAPORE - Three women and two men from China conspired with one another to cheat two Singaporean women of cash and jewellery totalling $439,000, a court heard on Friday.
Two of them - Li Lianying, 50, and Li Peng, 45 - pleaded guilty while the others are on the run.
Li Lianying admitted to scheming with Li Peng, Li Cai Hong, 45, Li Lian Ying, 40, and Li Tu Wang, 43, to deceive Madam Chua Peck Har, 66, into handing over cash and jewellery worth $37,550.
She and Li Peng also pleaded guilty to cheating Madam Goh Kah Keow, 72, of cash and jewellery totalling $401,450 at Roxy Square in East Coast Road the next day.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Vadivalagan Shanmuga said the five arrived in Singapore on Nov 18, and during their three-day stay, had schemed to cheat elderly women.
On Nov 19, they targeted Madam Chua, who was at a bus stop near People's Park Complex. Li Peng and the other man kept a distance.
Li Lianying approached her and asked if she knew someone who could perform prayers for her ailing son, who was fighting for his life in hospital, which was a lie.
Cai Hong then came along and claimed that she knew an old man nearby who could conduct prayers. Madam Chua followed the two women to a taxi stand where the third China woman, Li Lian Ying, joined in. She claimed that she was related to the old man they were looking for, and that he lived in People's Park Complex.
Suddenly, Lian Ying told the victim that she would face misfortune, and that she needed to pray over her savings and jewellery to avert "calamity''.
The victim then went home and got $37,550 in cash and jewellery, which was put into a black plastic bag. She was then asked to close her eyes for a prayer session.
During the prayer, the three women switched the bag.
The trio warned the victim not to open the bag, but to return to the taxi stand on Nov 27 to meet them. They told her that if she opened the bag before then, the prayer would be rendered void, and misfortune would befall her.
Fearing for her safety, Madam Chua did as they asked.
Li Lianying, Li Peng and their accomplices left for Hongkong the next day, after they had cheated Madam Goh at Roxy Square, using a similar ruse.
The victims later discovered that the bags contained water bottles and old newspapers.
Lianying and Li Peng were arrested when they arrived at Changi Airport on March 9. The other three, who were on the same flight, escaped by taking another flight home the same day.
The duo, who could each be jailed for up to 10 years and fined, will be sentenced on June 19.