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Mothers Claim Fraud After Group Milk Purchase

Four young mothers filed a report with Yangpu District police yesterday saying they were cheated by a 24-year local woman named Wang Jing on 51tuangou.com, a group purchase Website.

More than 200 mothers have joined a purchase group organized by Wang last July to buy milk powder and diapers at a discount. While the group has allegedly paid Wang 120,000 yuan (US$15,000), no one has received the goods they ordered, the mothers said.

Wang has allegedly admitted to fraud and started to return the money to the mothers. About 170 mothers have got their money back up to date. A mother surnamed Huang told Shanghai Daily she joined the group to save money on baby goods and help the organizer, who claimed to have a sick child.

"Wang posted a topic about milk powder purchase on the forum this July under the name 'Snow's Mother', describing herself as a mother of a leukemia child," said Huang, who spent more than 300 yuan buying baby products from the woman.

Many other young moms were touched by Wang's story and ordered goods, said Huang, but Wang said she was too busy taking care of her sick girl to deliver the products. The mothers gave her the benefit of the doubt until August, when a poster using the name Mike Sun tried to set up a group to purchase diapers.

"I was attracted as he offered a price much lower than market price," said Lu Yu, a mother who spent more than 33,000 yuan altogether buying the products for her 16-month-old son. "But then I found Mike Sun shared the same IP address with Snow's Mother."

When buyers began asking tough questions, Wang allegedly admitted she set up the scheme to make money.

"I did cheat many people on the net," said Wang. "And the child with leukemia was my invention. I do regret all of these actions."

If found guilty of fraud, Wang faces up to four years in jail, according to Ni Linghua, a lawyer with Shanghai Orient Justice Law Firm.

The Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection reminded consumers yesterday to be careful about group purchases.

"As the group purchase is usually organized by a single person rather than a business, the commission is not able to manage it," said Tang Jiansheng of the commission's legal department.

(Shanghai Daily September 20, 2006)

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