sfpd_arrestcuffs.jpgThree women and a man were arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court today in connection with a scam in which they tried to dupe people into giving them jewelry and cash at a farmer’s market last weekend, District Attorney George Gascon said.

Ying Liu Tam, 38, Ah Chung Liu, 48, Mudi Wu, 44, and Yong Hua Zeng, 53, were arrested Saturday after allegedly trying to scam two women at the Alemany Farmers’ Market at 100 Alemany Blvd.

Three of the suspects approached a woman and told her she was plagued by evil spirits and that a purification ceremony was needed on her jewelry and money to get rid of the spirits, police Inspector Marty Dito said.

However, the woman had remembered media reports earlier this year in which three people were arrested for a similar scam, so she decided to go to the Ingleside Police Station rather than her home and came back with police officers, Gascon said.

The suspects tried to flee in a taxi once police arrived but were arrested.

Investigators quickly learned that a second victim had already given the suspects more than $10,000 in jewelry and cash and that property was recovered, Dito said.

All four pleaded not guilty this afternoon to various charges for the incident.

Tam and Liu were charged with felony grand theft, extortion, attempted extortion and attempted grand theft. They are being held on $200,000 bail each, prosecutors said.

Wu and Zeng are each being held on $100,000. Wu’s charges are attempted extortion and attempted grand theft while Zeng’s are extortion and grand theft.

All four will return to court on Friday to set a preliminary hearing date.

Dito said police are still investigating whether the suspects had targeted other victims in the city recently or whether they are connected to the trio arrested back in May in the similar scheme that victimized at least 25 people.

Gascon said the arrests show “a need for the community to remain vigilant,” noting that the other woman “could have lost a significant amount of money” if the first victim had not reported the case to police.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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