TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese woman was found not guilty of abetting fraud after she claimed that she had been tricked by a con artist who posed as the actor Keanu Reeves.
A Kaohsiung resident surnamed Chang (張) was duped by the scammer into believing she had entered a relationship with the Hollywood superstar last year. He allegedly promised her he would marry her but needed to use her account to buy and sell bitcoins so that he could complete his next movie.
Chang believed she was sending money to Reeves until she was charged with fraud. Prosecutors initially accused Chang of money laundering, but Kaohsiung District Court found that she was actually a victim of a catfishing scheme and ruled that she was not guilty.
According to the verdict, Chang met a man on an online dating site who used the handle "K34044" and fell in love with him. After viewing his "personal photos" she "discovered" that he was the actor.
Even so, the fake Reeves used simplified Chinese characters to converse. When she asked him why he used simplified characters, the man responded that he was using Google Translate to convert English into Chinese.
The conman claimed called her "my wife" and pledged to do anything to make her happy, including marry her. He posted messages promising her paradise when she went to see him in Los Angeles: "I will always provide you with food and treat you like a queen because you are the queen of my heart."
He then claimed that he needed to raise funds for his next film in the form of Bitcoin. He asked her to provide him with an account so she could transfer funds to a "Mr. Chiu" (邱先生).
She was then to return him the Bitcoin wallet code provided by Chiu. When she asked him what film he was making, he promised her, "After I'm finished, I'll let you know."
Chang initially did not tell investigators about her relationship with "Reeves" because she believed it to be a "life-long relationship" and wanted to keep her ties with the "celebrity" confidential. He had previously told her not to talk to anyone about their union and she claimed that she believed he was only using her account for business transactions.
Meanwhile, a woman surnamed Lin (林) and a man surnamed Li (李) were found to have been deceived by a con involving alleged U.S. military gold and money in Iraq, which involved wire transfers of more than NT$170,000 and NT$180,000 in funds, respectively, reported SET News. Lin and Li reported the incident to police, who determined the monies had been wired to an account in Chang's name.
When Chang finally did reveal that she had been providing funds to K34044, prosecutors did not believe her because she appeared to have received NT$35,000 in remittance fees and therefore charged her with money laundering.
However, the court later found that she had actually received only NT$15,000 and she claimed this was because she begged the man to send her some funds for food and living expenses. Based on Chang's testimony, the court ruled the woman sincerely believed that she was in love and did not willingly engage in fraud.
The court's verdict is subject to appeal.