Sat, Aug 04, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Pair convicted of fraud targeting Buddhist family

CANCER PATIENT:Chang Yuan-chen asked the family of a woman with cancer to invest in companies to help develop a treatment for the disease, a court ruling said

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

A woman named Chang Yuan-chen (張元貞) was convicted of fraud involving NT$260 million (US$8.47 million) paid by a family who the Taichung District Court said believed they were investing in monastery-linked companies that might help treat a family member’s cancer.

Chang, 48, was sentenced to seven years in prison for breaches of the Business Entity Accounting Act (商業會計法), while a male accomplice was handed a three-year term. They were ordered to return the money.

It was the first ruling and can be appealed.

Chang and the male accomplice presented themselves as students of Buddhist master Wei Chueh (惟覺), who founded the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Nantou County’s Puli Township (埔里), the court said in its ruling.

Chang claimed to have psychic powers and to be able to communicate with Wei Chueh — who died in 2016 — as well as the ability to channel the thoughts of Buddhist and Taoist deities, the court said.

Chang targeted a mother and daughter surnamed Shih (施), who were regulars at the monastery, as the Shih family is wealthy, investigators said.

In 2010, upon learning that the daughter was diagnosed with cancer, Chang told the women that she had received guidance from Wei Chueh and deities, who said that four companies affiliated with the monastery should be established, with the Shih family to provide the bulk of the funding, investigators said.

One of the companies was to be a biomedical research laboratory that was to focus on developing a Chinese herbal medicine, which Chang said would help combat the daughter’s cancer, the ruling said.

From 2010 to 2013, the women and some relatives transferred NT$260 million to a fund management company, which was controlled by Chang, the court said.

Investigators said that most of the money went into private bank accounts held by Chang and the male accomplice, and they used the money to buy property in their own names, while only a little went into the four companies.

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