Replacement criminal: 12 years jail for ‘trusted friend’ of Chinese woman who stole US$138,000 in luxury goods from her home and switched them for fakes

Replacement criminal: 12 years jail for ‘trusted friend’ of Chinese woman who stole US$138,000 in luxury goods from her home and switched them for fakes
  • Chinese woman’s 3-year crime spree in which she stole US$138,000 in luxury items from home of ‘trusted friend’ ends in 12- year prison term
  • Prosecutors say ‘best pal’ criminal, who replaced the stolen loot with fake top-end items, also misled the police investigation into her crimes

A Chinese woman who stole almost one million yuan-worth of luxury products from her best friend’s house – then tried to cover her tracks by replacing them with fakes – has been jailed for 12 years.

The case has stirred huge interest on mainland social media after a TV station in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin reported that the thief, surnamed Liu, pilfered high-end goods to the value of 940,000 yuan (US$138,000) from the home of her friend, surnamed Cao, whom she had known for years.

The online media outlet Star Video posted an edited version of the video on Weibo, reporting that the pair had developed a relationship over a period of years in which they could “talk about everything”.

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The thieving spree was triggered in 2019 when Cao bought a new house in Changchun, the capital of Jilin province.

As Cao was often away from the provincial capital, she trusted Liu, who was living in the city full-time to help with renovations and gave her a key to the house.

What Cao did not expect was the key would open the door for her best friend’s crime binge.

The prosecutor in charge of the case told Jilin TV that Liu was experiencing financial difficulties in 2019.

As a result, she stole nearly 20 luxury items from Cao’s new house, including Hermes and Louis Vuitton handbags, Bulgari bracelets and various branded-clothing items.

Liu then replaced her loot with high-quality fake items she bought online.

It is unclear how Cao discovered the pillage of her home but in 2022 she found that luxury goods had been swapped for fakes in a spree spanning three years.

Prosecutors said that even after she reported the thefts to the authorities, Cao believed her friend was not the culprit for a lengthy period, adding that Liu misled the police investigation.

Then prosecutors said the police had identified the suspect and were about to make an arrest.

Investigators did not tell Cao that the suspect was her friend and she shared the “good news” with Liu. It was then that Liu came clean to Cao and begged for her forgiveness which Cao refused to give.

Finally, in 2022, the local court in Jilin province sentenced Liu to 12 years in prison.

According to Chinese criminal law, a theft exceeding 300,000 yuan is punishable by more than 10 years imprisonment.

Due to the fact that Liu did not confess to her crimes and misled the police investigation she received the maximum term.

The Star Video clip has been viewed by over 5 million people on Weibo.

One online observer said: “You must choose your friends carefully.”

Another said: “Never give your house keys to just anyone, even if she’s your best friend.”

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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