A Wellington man paid $35,000 to marry a Singaporean woman he contacted through a newspaper advertisement before finding out that she was already married to an Australian.
The woman who arranged the deal, 59-year-old Li Jun Xue, has now been told she better repay that money in a hurry so that she can return to Australia after being convicted of fraud in the Christchurch District Court.
Judge Tom Gilbert, who found her guilty in a one-day judge-alone trial, said: “The outcome of this may be very different for her if she comes up with the $35,000.”
He has set Xue’s sentencing for September 9. She has had to hand over her Australian passport after her conviction and although she is on bail she will not be allowed to leave the country unless she pays the reparations into court.
She has been living in Australia and returning to Christchurch for her court appearances.
Judge Gilbert found the police had proved the charge of obtaining the money by deception.
The police verified that Xue knew that the “Singaporean” woman offered as a bride – actually a Malaysian woman named Jessica – had been married in Wollongong, Australia, on September 21, 2012.
They produced the marriage certificate at the trial, which showed that Xue and the man described as her husband, had been witnesses at the ceremony.
Judge Gilbert said that when the victim of the fraud found out about the earlier marriage, it was Xue who told him that if he paid $10,000 more, a divorce from the Australian could be arranged so that the new marriage could go ahead.
Xue owns a home in Christchurch which has been having quake repairs carried out. She has also run a restaurant.
The deception began with an advertisement placed in The Dominion-Post newspaper on June 26, 2013. It offered a 45-year-old Singaporean woman for companionship and possible marriage.
The victim, who was looking for a long-term relationship and possible marriage, contacted Xue on the phone number in the advertisement.
The victim met Xue and her son before meeting Jessica who Xue said was her sister. Xue told him beforehand to explain that he was a business friend, and not to mention the advertisement. The man got to know Jessica over several meetings. At dinner, Xue then spoke about money, saying that a payment of $50,000 would show that the victim had the financial resources to look after Jessica.
The victim thought it over and decided to put the money into a joint account to show he had the money to look after her. He thought they were getting married.
Xue wanted him to travel to Christchurch from Wellington to sort out the money. He travelled overnight, and next day he met Xue and Jessica and obtained a bank cheque for $35,000 and signed an agreement with Xue indicating it was a downpayment as a gift for marriage to Jessica.
The victim and Jessica travelled back to Wellington. Jessica requested that the victim buy her an expensive wedding ring and that he open up a joint bank account with her and deposit $10,000.
The victim told the court he was devastated to then discover that Jessica’s immigration status was not what Xue had told him, and then that she was married to an Australian. The marriage certificate showed that she was of Malaysian origin and not Singaporean.
After hearing evidence from the victim, bank officers, and a police witness, Judge Gilbert found that Xue was involved in a deception which had led to the victim’s payment of $35,000, and that she had received some or possibly all of the proceeds.
Judge Gilbert asked for a report on Xue’s suitability for home detention to be prepared ahead of her sentencing.