Lei Chunian, who rose to hero status as a schoolboy for helping to save his classmates during the 2008 earthquake, stood trial yesterday on accusations of defrauding 21 people out of 463,000 yuan.
Lei became a national figure after he saved the lives of seven fellow classmates during the deadly 8.0-magnitude quake that struck Wechuan, Sichaun province six years ago, leaving over 69,000 people dead. He’d been crowned the Teenage Earthquake Rescue Hero and was even selected as torchbearer during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Lei, who was 15 at the time, had managed to escape to the playground of his school when he began feeling shocks from the earthquake. As soon as he found that only a few classmates had made it out of the building, he returned inside to lead seven more students to safety before the entire building collapsed.
Prosecutors in Chengdu, Sichuan are now charging the 22-year-old man with fraud and forgery on allegations that he exploited his reputation to swindle money from people, according to CRI, citing the Chengdu Economic Daily. Lei would collect money from people who asked favors from him and then failed to follow through.
The website of China Radio International reported that Lei had promised last year to find his girlfriend a job as a flight attendant with an unidentified airline – for a 100,000 yuan fee – but that he stopped communicating with her after she paid the money .
Citing other court findings, Xinhua said Lei pocketed 363,000 yuan last year after numerous scams and false promises.
He told several parents that he could arrange through his contacts admission for children to a top Chengdu school. He was said to have pocketed 138,000 yuan after promising 10 people he could obtain drivers’ licences without taking the tests .
Samples of forged documents including seals, receipts and notices from the Chengdu education department and an unidentified driving school were presented as evidence.
At the height of his fame, Lei had been admitted to a top school in Sichuan and was awarded a 200 yuan monthly allowance. He often missed classes and failed to perform well, Shanghai Daily reported.
Lei, who was arrested in June after reporting that his wallet had been stolen, admitted to committing fraud in court. He could face up to 10 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
Googling Lei’s name yields these results.
[Images via Sina]