Marriage scam victim will get money back

Court House-07Li Jun Xue is too ill to return from Australia for her sentencing for a marriage scam but she has already paid $35,000 which will be passed on to the victim.

The 59-year-old woman sent a medical certificate ahead of her sentencing in the Christchurch District Court today saying that she was too ill for work, or school, or airline travel, because of high blood pressure.

Judge Tom Gilbert remanded the case for sentencing on November 4 but warned that the medical documentation was inadequate and if she did not turn up next time he would issue an arrest warrant.

Xue was convicted in June of fraud at a judge-alone trial, and told that paying back the money would make a big difference at the sentencing that was set for today.

The deception involved an advertisement placed in The Dominion-Post newspaper on June 26, 2013, offering a 45-year-old Singaporean woman for companionship and possible marriage.

A Wellington man answered the advertisement by phoning Xue, and then had several meetings with a woman Xue said was her sister Jessica.

After signing an agreement and paying $35,000 as a downpayment as a “gift for marriage to Jessica”, the man discovered that the woman’s immigration status was not what Xue had told him, and then that she was married to an Australian.

The marriage certificate showed that Jessica was of Malaysian origin and not Singaporean, and that Xue and the man described as her husband had been witnesses at the ceremony in Wollongong, Australia, on September 21, 2012.

The victim said he was told that if he paid $10,000 more, a divorce from the Australian could be arranged so that the new marriage could go ahead.

Defence counsel Alister James, who has been recently assigned, said there had been difficulties communicating with Xue in Wollongong, or through her Sydney lawyer. He had spoken to her within the last few days, and the medical certificate had arrived by email.

The police asked for the $35,000 reparation payment, which Xue has already paid into court, to be paid to the victim even if the sentencing could not go ahead, because he had written in a victim impact statement that his “financial hardship has been severe”.

Mr James said he could not resist the money being paid to the victim, because of the judge’s finding, the conviction, and the fact that the money was available at court.

Judge Gilbert said that he could not sentence Xue in her absence but he took the view that the $35,000 which had been obtained by deception from the victim was actually his money and the court was currently holding “his property”.

“The $35,000 currently held in court is to be disbursed to the victim in this matter,” he ruled.

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