It began on the pages of the personal section of the World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper circulated widely in Queens. Over a 1 1/2-year period, through such ads, seven women were promised opulent homes, abundant wealth and, in most cases, marriage.
But instead the man who made those promises has been accused of bilking the women out of more than a total of $130,000, the Queens district attorney said.
Last week a 45-year-old Flushing man, Ping Liu, was arrested on charges that he passed himself off as a wealthy businessman from Shanghai, China, telling the women that he was a multimillionaire and then, later on, asking them to lend him money, said District Attorney Richard Brown. Liu would explain the need for such loans by claiming that the government had frozen his assets, asking in some cases to borrow as much as $20,000, Brown said.
He also allegedly told the women that he had extensive diplomatic and business connections and, in most cases, that he was in need of a wife, the district attorney said. He is also charged with assaulting two of the women during arguments over the debts.
Liu was arraigned Friday in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens on 20 counts of grand larceny and petty larceny, issuing a false financial statement, and assault, Brown said. Before Justice Evelyn Braun, Liu pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was held on $100,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison on each count. His attorney, Michael Gaffey, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The charges last week cast some light on a bustling business for which many Chinese-language newspapers serve as a platform: marriages of convenience. People in Shanghai look to run ads in our newspaper, said Joe Wei, an editor of the World Journal in Whitestone. Typically women in Shanghai seek a man around 40 with legal status in other words, so that they [could] come from Shanghai to the United States.
In the case against Liu, the seven women and the defendant all live in Queens, and there is no indication that the women wanted to marry Liu in order to obtain citizenship. But in many instances, Wei said, women and men from China, especially those from the Fuzhou province, place personal ads in newspapers like the World Journal in hopes of finding a Chinese partner who is an American citizen.
He said it is not uncommon for some to offer as much as $80,000, the payments usually made in installments, to come to the United States and marry.
The district attorney became aware of the allegations against Liu in October during a regular meeting with the Asian American Advisory Council, said Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for his office. One of the members of that council had information about this and brought it to our attention and helped us get in touch with the various victims, she said.
Between June 1999 and January 2001, Liu is accused of either responding to or taking out ads himself as a professed eligible businessman from Shanghai, one of the wealthiest cities in China, the district attorney said. The women, after making contact with Liu, were promised expensive homes and an affluent lifestyle offers that were supported by official-looking documents that were shown to them, Brown said.
But some time later, Liu would claim to be cash poor, saying the government had frozen his assets, the district attorney said. In other cases, Liu would say he was waiting for his funds to be transferred to New York from California. On that basis, Brown said, the women were asked to lend anywhere from $350 to $20,000 and, in exchange, were promised high-paying jobs, even marriage.
Liu is also accused of assaulting two of the women during arguments that arose from the debts.
Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2001 Community News Group
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