SEOUL - A gang set up fake casinos to cheat wealthy South Koreans golfing in China out of millions of dollars in a scam inspired by film plots, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Sixteen people have been charged and another five are being hunted for allegedly defrauding 26 men of 7.7 billion won (S$9.24 million), the JoongAng Daily quoted Seoul prosecutors as saying.
The ringleader was a man surnamed Choi, 58, who worked with a woman surnamed Kim, 37, to trap victims. He is still being hunted.
In one case in 2005, Kim allegedly approached a businessman at a local golf club and struck up an acquaintance. She suggested the man visit China to play golf and introduced him to Choi.
When Choi and his victim arrived in China, prosecutors were quoted as saying, Choi had already set up phoney casinos inside banquet halls at hotels in Xiamen, Haikou and Weihai.
The pair began playing baccarat and at first the businessman won. Cheering "spectators" urged him to keep betting but the victim eventually found himself down 300 million won.
Because the businessman could not leave China without paying his debts, the crowd -- all of them Chois accomplices -- offered to lend him the money. The victim transferred 300 million won to their accounts once he returned to Korea.
The newspaper quoted one prosecutor as saying the gang combined scams depicted in the Hollywood movie "The Sting" -- in which conmen stage a phoney horse race -- and a Korean movie "The High Rollers" in which an actress approaches a businessman at a golf club.
Most victims did not know they had been conned until the investigation began.