Vietnam police busts gang selling fake meteorite chunks

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Ho Chi Minh City police are investigating a gang who conned people into buying fake meteorites in an elaborate scheme.

A Saturday report by news website VietNamNet said the police have arrested ten suspects in the gang, including Thai Van Tuan, 36-year-old director of a gem company in the city, his wife Bui Ngoc Nga, and Nga's nephew Ho Quang Minh.

Of other gang members, three are from Binh Thuan Province - Le Anh Nguyen, Kieu Duc Thinh and Mang Klong, and four others from the Central Highlands' Lam Dong Province Chi Oanh, Ya Lieng, Ya Moi and Ya Lik.

The gang was busted on Tuesday during a transaction.

The modus operandi of the gang was for a few of them to pretend they were looking to buy meteorites, and others to be selling them, catching that victim in the middle.

Police have identified three victims so far, including the latest one whom the gang was busted with.

Nguyen approached the victim, only identified as B., and told him about a meteorite in Lam Dong which was as small as a box of matches but weighed more than four kilograms.

B. was attracted by the strange fact and came to see the meteorite. He was asked to pay money to invite shamans to conduct rituals so that more people besides the owner could touch the rock.

Several members of the gang played the role of strangers and pretended to get dizzy and talk nonsense after touching the rock.

 
 A hardened piece of tar, which the gang introduced to their victims as a meteorite.
B. believed it more when he himself felt an electric shock when touching the rock, even after prayers. He did not know Nguyen and other members had secretly connect the rock to a three volt current.

He agreed to pay VND660 billion (nearly US$32 million) for the chunk of meteorite.

Later, Tuan showed up and offered to buy a meteorite for $100 million if B. had any.

So B. asked Nguyen to deliver the rock to Ho Chi Minh City.

At the transaction, Tuan asked B. to give VND200 million in advance as compensation if the rock turned out to be fake.

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It was at this juncture that the police broke in and seized the money as well as the fake rock. The police had been alerted to the gang by previous victims.

The arrested gang members have told the police they had cheated several gullible people, typically those who strongly believed in the mysterious powers of meteorites, of several billion dong using the same scheme.

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