BEIJING - Three miners have been sentenced to death in China for brutally murdering their coworkers before posing as relatives to claim compensation in a grisly series of scams, state-media said Tuesday.
The convicted were part of a group of 10 involved with murders in three different Chinese regions using stones, hammers and shovels among other tools, the official Xinhua news agency said.
They then posed as family members of their victims in order to con about 2.3 million yuan (S$516,245) from mine managers eager to hush up the incidents and avoid punishment.
The grisly murders took place during night shifts at several coal mines in northern China between 2010 and 2013, the state-run Ningxia News Network said.
The murders were eerily similar to those depicted in the 2003 film "Blind Shaft", which tells the story of two con artists who pose as relatives of mine workers they murder for compensation money.
The film won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The death sentences were handed down by a court in China's Ningxia region last week, Xinhua said.
Two other defendants received a suspended death sentence, usually commuted to life in prison, while five others were given between three and 15 years in prison, it added.
China - the world's largest producer of coal - has for years suffered from work safety problems in the under-regulated sector.
Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people last year, a top work safety official said in March.
The official number of mining fatalities is declining but some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.