Man spends $225,000 on fake meteorites

By Cuu Long   June 15, 2020 | 11:57 pm PT
Man spends $225,000 on fake meteorites
A piece of clay which has been painted over and claimed by a married couple in Dong Thap Province in southern Vietnam as a "meteorite." Photo courtesy of Dong Thap Police.
A Saigon man has lost VND5.2 billion ($225,000) to a couple who sold him clay pieces, claiming they were space rocks.

Truong Van Son, 49, and his wife Dang Thi Nga, 45, residents of Lap Vo District in Dong Thap Province of southern Vietnam, have been arrested and charged over "fraudulent appropriation of assets."

According to investigators, Son and his wife took a piece of clay, painted it black and covered it with a type of coal paper before spreading rumors they had a meteorite that could freeze mercury and treat terminal illnesses.

Later, Ho Van Binh, another Lap Vo local who is wanted by the police for the same charge, advertised the clay to a 58-year-old man who owns a drug store in Ho Chi Minh City and set up a meeting.

Son told the man the piece of clay was a "holy and spiritual gift" inherited over generations. In order to sell it, they had to organize rituals and engage in charity work so the "super power" would be transferred to a new household and owner.

To gain the customer's trust, Son performed a trick to make the clay float on water, making up various mysterious stories to boost its reputation.

The convinced drug store owner deposited VND1 billion ($43,000) to secure the "space rock" before paying the extra VND3.2 billion.

To make sure he would not be exposed, Son made the buyer put the clay into a box of lead, placed inside a safe, with only him having the password, since "the meteorite would lose all of its super power and become invaluable if placed in normal environment."

Truong Van Son and his fake meteorites in glass jars at the police station in Dong Thap Province. Photo by the police

Truong Van Son and his fake meteorites in glass jars at Dong Thap Province police station. Photo courtesy of Dong Thap Police.

Seeing the Saigon man was easily tricked, Son, his wife and Binh confirmed there were more space rocks in the garden of Binh’s brother, also a resident of Lap Vo.

Son dug a piece of clay from the garden, telling Binh’s brother to put it on the altar for worshiping and "stay away from it to avoid dangerous radioactivity." It was a trick to make Binh's brother automatically support the scam when the Saigon man showed up.

Later, Son and his wife made another so-called meteorite from clay, covered in black paint and charcoal.

Then they switched the product with the one on the altar before inviting the Saigon man over, pushing him to buy it.

Eventually, the man paid VND1 billion for the second piece of clay.

After realizing what he thought to be two space rocks did nothing for him, the Saigon man reported the entire story to police in August last year.

Inspectors later confirmed the two rocks were just clay.

Binh has since skipped town.

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