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September 25, 2017

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Prosecution case against local conned into cashing fake checks for 'Clooney' dropped

The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office yesterday resolved to drop its prosecution against a woman accused by the Taipei police authority of allegedly trying to cash fake traveler checks at a local bank in April, on grounds that she didn't knowingly commit the criminal practice.

The 29-year-old woman, surnamed Yang, works at a cruise line company located on Denhua North Road in Taipei. She allegedly tried to cash 20 fake American Express travelers' checks with a face value of US$500 each and convert the money into New Taiwan dollars at the Chengzhong Branch of Mega International Bank on April 18. The Zhongzheng branch of the Taipei Police Department handed Yang over to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office for prosecution on charges of counterfeiting marketable securities.

But Yang told prosecutors that she was conned into cashing fake travelers checks by a man pretending to be George Clooney, the American actor, film director and screenwriter.

Yang said that she first met a man over the Internet in March this year claiming to be a friend of George Clooney's. Afterward, she made direct contact with the person impersonating Clooney via emails, in which "Clooney" asked her to cash travelers' checks for him in Taiwan. Yang said she believed that she was actually "doing a favor" for the American actor himself.

Before cashing the checks, Yang also made three remittances of up to NT$1.4 million in total to bank accounts designated by "Clooney" to honor tax payments to the British government and for obtaining a certificate saying that the cashing of the travelers' checks had nothing to do with money laundering or terrorism. Yang did the "favor" as "Clooney" had repeatedly told her that he was a representative of various charities under the United Nations and was in charge of a charity fund, adding that the tax payment and the certificate were needed to safeguard the fund.

Judging from Yang's testimony, prosecutors found that Yang had little knowledge of travelers' checks as a commercial product and that she really believed that she was helping the American actor cash checks.

Prosecutors decided not to prosecute Yang on grounds of her not knowingly committing the crime of fabricating travelers' checks.

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