Xiaoxin Zeng: How Chinese fraudster preyed on Sydney international students

A cunning fraudster who rorted Chinese international students out of $200,000 was brought undone after 20 of her victims banded together and ambushed her in the streets of Sydney, a court has heard.

Student visa holder Xiaoxin Zeng, 30, preyed upon Good Samaritans by approaching them at shopping centres and casinos and begging them to withdraw money for her from ATMs.

Zeng would tell her victims she hadn’t received her debit card in the mail yet, but could transfer them the money she needed. She then showed them screenshots apparently proving she had done just that, court documents said.

But the screenshots were fake and the money never arrived in the victims’ bank accounts.

Court facts said Zeng pulled the same devious trick when she met up with luxury goods sellers, showing fake screenshots so they would hand over items such as Bvlgari necklaces, Gucci handbags, Burberry coats and Apple iPhones.

However, the fraudster’s trail of deceit began to catch up with her 18 months ago when her many furious victims banded together online to set a clever trap. 

Xiaoxin Zeng, 30, was arrested and charged with 38 fraud related charges over the spree. She will be deported in May

Xiaoxin Zeng, 30, was arrested and charged with 38 fraud related charges over the spree. She will be deported in May

Zeng was ambushed on the streets of Sydney by up to 20 of her victims in mid-2019 (above) however she wasn't arrested and charged until last May

Zeng was ambushed on the streets of Sydney by up to 20 of her victims in mid-2019 (above) however she wasn’t arrested and charged until last May

Video obtained by the Sydney Today Chinese language news website showed the moment the scammer was ambushed (shared with permission)

Video obtained by the Sydney Today Chinese language news website showed the moment the scammer was ambushed (shared with permission)

Members of the WeChat group ‘Xiaoxin ZENG pay us back our money’ placed a fake ad for a luxury product on a classifieds website in June 2019, a statement of court facts said.

The victims hoped the fraudster would take the bait, and she did, agreeing to meet at Sydney’s Town Hall to purchase the item.

When Zeng turned up, as many as 20 of her victims swooped in to confront her, court facts said. 

Video obtained by the Sydney Today website shows Zeng being surrounded by her alleged victims in Haymarket. The Chinese language news outlet claims she called the police on her victims, and video shows officers milling about.

Court facts said Zeng wasn’t arrested at the time, but fled New South Wales shortly after for Queensland, and then Victoria.

NSW Police launched a full-fledged fraud investigation in early 2020 following a series of victims’ complaints. She was eventually charged with 38 fraud offences in May.

‘Zeng has avoided detection by moving between states and changing her appearance with the use of wigs, using multiple alias names and changing mobile numbers and phones constantly,’ court documents said.

The items Zeng allegedly obtained through fraud included an $1100 Celina handbag

An $870 Bvlgari clutch

The items Zeng allegedly obtained through fraud: an $1100 Celina handbag (left) and a $870 Bvlgari clutch (right)

A rose-gold Bvlgari necklace valued at $4,100

An older model Apple iPhone valued at $650

Other items included a rose gold Bvlgari necklace valued at $4,100 (left) and an older model iPhone valud at $650

Police said Zeng managed to pull off the scam by sending an unknown person the victim’s bank details, and instructing them to mock up fake screenshots with the details. 

‘Zeng has defrauded so many victims that a WeChat group, formed in 2018 by her first victims, now has a group member total of 70 people with a combined total loss of approximately $200,000 AUD dollars,’ court documents said.

Zeng played with her hair and read from a book when Magistrate Philip Stewart sentenced her to a minimum 12 month jail term last month. 

A court heard Zeng had claimed she was trying to sustain a gambling addiction and was sorry for her actions. 

But Magistrate Stewart said: ‘I do not accept on balance that she is remorseful.’

She will be eligible for parole on May 9, when she is expected to be deported back to China. 

The long list of luxury items Xiaoxin Zeng used fake bank receipts to steal

* A $1100 yellow Celine trio leather cross body handbag 

* $320 OffWhite X Nike Vaporstreet shoes

* A Bvlgari 18 carat rose gold necklace valued at $4400

* An iPhone 7 plus with 128gb of storage valued at $650

* An Apple iPhone XS Max with 256gb of storage valued at $1,650

* An Apple iPhone 11 Promax valued at $2,300

* An iPad Pro with 12 inch screen and 64gb of storage valued at $1000  

* A Gucci handbag worth $2400

* A $1500 LV handbag 

 * A Canon 60D digital camera valued at $1500

* An 1800 Burberry coat

Source: Police statement of facts tendered at Central Local Court 

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