Woman gets 20 years for bilking Chinese in $26M hotel fraud

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. bilk / bɪlk / (v.) – to cheat people to get money from them

    A man pretending to be a lawyer bilked his clients out of at least $50,000 each.

  2. plea / pli / (n.) – a statement given by someone accused of a crime to the court

    She entered a plea of not guilty to charges of robbery.

  3. torment / ˈtɔr mɛnt / (n.) – an extreme mental pain usually caused by problems, unhappiness, or worry

    Losing our house in a fire is a torment for us.

  4. live large / lɪv lɑrdʒ / (idiom) – to live like a very rich person

    If you keep on living large and buying very expensive things, you will end up with no savings.

  5. contemplate / ˈkɒn təmˌpleɪt / (v.) – to spend time thinking carefully about something

    I contemplated resigning from this job last year.


Read the text below.

A woman who bilked investors in a Southern California hotel and condominium project out of at least $26 million was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Ruixue “Serena” Shi, 38, of Arcadia was sentenced after a judge refused to allow her to withdraw her plea last year to wire fraud.

“There has been no acceptance of responsibility; there has been a denial of responsibility,” U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner said, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Prosecutors said that from late 2015 to mid-2018, Shi was the general manager of a real estate company based in China that had a Los Angeles office. She solicited investments, mainly from Chinese investors, in a 207-unit luxury complex to be built in the city of Coachella, in the desert southeast of Los Angeles.

In reality, Shi spent much of the money on luxury cars, travel, clothing, dining and shopping, prosecutors said. That included $800,000 at a “full-service styling agency” in Beverly Hills, prosecutors said.

“While her victims suffered financial ruin and psychological torment, (Shi) was living large off their investments,” prosecutors said in a sentencing document.

In court statements, more than two dozen victims submitted statements.

“Several discussed their reliance on Shi’s false promises that their investments would assist them in securing visas to immigrate to the United States. One victim even wrote that, after losing his retirement savings to Shi’s scheme, he ‘even contemplated suicide,’” the Department of Justice statement said.

In addition to prison time, Shi was ordered to pay $35.8 million in restitution.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Several investors believed Shi that their investments would help them get visas to immigrate to the U.S. Why do you think a lot of people want to live in the U.S.? Discuss.
  • Where would you like to invest your retirement savings (ex. in a business, in a new house)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • A lot of Shi’s victims suffered financial ruin and psychological torment. What do you think the government should do for them? Discuss.
  • If one of your friends became a victim of fraud and suffered financial ruin and psychological torment just like Shi’s victims, how would you help him or her? Discuss.
Category : Top Stories