18 boyfriends, 1 husband, $408,000 stolen cash: Chinese woman almost had it all

A married fashion model in China who allegedly conned almost 20 men out of more than two million yuan (S$408,000) to fund her luxury lifestyle has been arrested by Shanghai police.

The 29-year-old woman, surnamed Wu, has been romantically involved with numerous men since 2017 and at one point was dating 18 men simultaneously, Shanghai TV reported.

Wu pretended to agree to marry the men, even having pre-wedding photos taken with them to convince the men her feelings were genuine.

Some of her “boyfriends” were so enraptured by her act that they started affectionately calling her “wife” in their online conversations. Once Wu was confident she had the unwitting men on the hook, the request for money began.

The reasons she gave for needing money included her father had late-stage cancer and she had to cover his medical costs; her brother needed money to buy a flat for his marriage; her cousin needed bailing out of jail, and that she had to pay a tax bill after inheriting property.

So convincing was Wu’s routine that some men took out loans to meet her requests for cash, police said.

However, unbeknown to her many boyfriends, Wu had been legally married since 2014 to a man, surnamed Zeng, with whom she has a two-year-old son.

When some of her boyfriends brought up the subject of registering as a married couple, she came up with various excuses to put them off.

Some of the men eventually grew suspicious and asked for their money back, threatening to report her to the police when she refused. Wu then began a Ponzi scheme to keep the men at bay – borrowing money from her newer boyfriends to pay back money to the old ones.

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Wu’s increasingly elaborate web of lies started coming apart at the beginning of this year when she asked one of her boyfriends, surnamed Wang, to pose as her brother and help get rid of another man, surnamed Li, who Wu claimed was chasing her over unpaid taxes.


“The man asked me when we could return the money to him. He said he is short of money and he had already sold his house,” Wang later told police. “I instantly became suspicious of Wu. How could it be possible that a person who pushed others to pay taxes had sold his own house?”

In reality, Li had lent one million yuan to Wu, funding the loan by selling his only property at a fire sale price in the belief she needed the money urgently.

In June, Wang, who had himself lent 900,000 yuan to Wu, told her that if she wanted to marry him, she should bring her parents to meet his parents to discuss wedding arrangements. Otherwise, he would break up with her and demand the return of his money immediately.


After Wu said she couldn’t return the money right away, Wang went to the police in July.

Police tracked Wu down in a rented house where she lives with her husband Zeng and said she works as a fashion model.

When questioned by police, Wu claimed to be single and said she was being courted by many suitors. She said she dated them as a way of funding her luxurious lifestyle and to support her brother, sister and parents who live outside Shanghai.

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Police said their investigation is ongoing.

After the story broke, mainland internet users were stunned and fascinated by the many elaborate lives Wu had been leading.

“She is really a time management master,” one person said on Weibo.

“I don’t even have one boyfriend, but she has 18. Now I know where the world’s single men are,” another person joked.

“Without checking this woman’s background carefully, those men lent her huge amounts of money. I would say the victims have a negative IQ,” a third user commented.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.