Burglar hopes graft proof may bring lighter sentence

By Hua Shang Daily - Agencies Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-14 5:03:07

Fang Yunyun is pictured in Shenzhen during her pregnancy. Photo: CFP

When Fang Yunyun broke into two wealthy households, she stole handfuls of gold bars and hundreds of shopping gift cards, among other items, worth 2 million yuan.

While in these homes, she also spotted real estate ownership certificates for a number of properties including a "villa" that was more than 300 square meters in area.

When she was eventually caught by police in Hefei, Anhui Province, they confiscated everything she had stolen, but didn't bring any charges against her. According to Fang, this was because the households she visited belonged to provincial officials.

While in their homes, she took pictures of her loot to show off to her friends, and kept the photos as evidence of their corruption. She figured that if she was caught, she could use these items to disclose corruption to the authorities and earn herself better treatment at court.

However, after being in custody in Hefei for a month, police transferred her to Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, on May 26.

Fang was then sentenced to 10 years in prison in Changzhou for six unrelated cases of theft in the city committed in March, before she had gone to Hefei. There was no mention of the two Hefei cases in the Changzhou trial.

She wonders why.

Photos of shopping cards and other valuables, taken by Fang, are provided to the media, which she claims to be evidence of corruption. Photo: CFP

Criminal beginnings

Three years ago, Fang left her hometown in Shaanxi Province after graduating from junior middle school. Like many young people from the countryside without a higher education, she ended up working in a factory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, where she met her boyfriend, with whom she became pregnant early this year.

After becoming pregnant, she quit her tiring and repetitive production line job, and her boyfriend, also a migrant worker, became their sole source of income. However,  after a bitter quarrel during the Spring Festival, he disappeared.

After becoming pregnant at such a young age, she dared not return home for fear of her family rejecting her.

Without any source of income, Fang wandered to Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, and started to steal in March. She told the Hua Shang Daily that she did it all by herself, learning how to pick locks online, sneaking into homes and stealing cash and valuables.

Soon, however, she was caught by police. After returning all the money she had stolen and paying 1,000 yuan for bail, she found herself penniless once again.

Desperate to feed herself, Fang traveled to Hefei, not far from Changzhou, to continue stealing, but this time in a "smarter" way.

Targeting the corrupt

Fang told the media that she heard from local cab drivers that two officials, from the provincial banking regulatory commission and the food and drug administration, were corrupt and wealthy. She then searched for information about them online and managed to spot them outside their offices.

For more than 20 days in May, Fang followed them back home and learned their daily routines. She stole hundreds of shopping gift cards, each worth 1,000 or 2,000 yuan, gold bars, expensive gifts like cordyceps fungi, and spotted a number of housing ownership certificates in their homes. Fang took pictures of these extravagant possessions at the scene, and insisted she had discovered evidence of corruption.

After she was caught, she handed over the valuables, including the pictures she took, to the police in Hefei on May 26. However, after being in custody for a month in Hefei, the police merely transferred her back to Changzhou, where she was sentenced in July for prior thefts.

"I don't understand why those two cases didn't count. I had hoped to be given a lighter sentence for reporting corruption," she told the Hua Shang Daily. "This can't be ignored."

So she wrote a letter for help and asked her friend to send it to reporters. Soon after, journalists came to find her. She was eager to talk about the two burglaries, even though she faced the risk of a more severe punishment if the items stolen during these crimes were added to her charges.

Fang also sent tip-off letters to the Anhui provincial disciplinary committee of the Communist Party of China. Local media reported that a committee spokesperson said the authorities are looking into the matter, but the two officials involved haven't been affected.

After being handed her sentence this July, Fang has been allowed to stay out of prison until she gives birth, according to the law.

A controversy is born

Despite Fang insisting that she had burgled the houses alone, Anhui police said Fang was part of a gang which recruits pregnant women and specifically targets government and Party officials, local media in Anhui reported.

Being pregnant means that the gang's members will not go to prison during pregnancy and postnatal feeding period.

Police say they confiscated a list of names from Fang, with officials' names and contact details in various provinces and regions.

The two Hefei officials allegedly received blackmail letters after Fang was detained by the police, which urged them to withdraw the criminal case.

However, Fang told media that she had been threatened by the police during her custody in Hefei, who told her not to cause further trouble. The police responded by saying that they processed her detention according to the law.

After one year, Fang will begin her prison sentence in Changzhou. "I only hope my tip-off will be taken into account, and I will serve the jail term I deserve," she said.

Hua Shang Daily - Agencies
Newspaper headline: A thief targeting officials

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