Police in eastern China are searching for a woman accused of renting hundreds of luxury cars before pawning them to borrow large sums of money.
The cars – including models from Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Bentley and Lamborghini – were used to borrow 100 million yuan (US$14.3 million) using a variety of false documents, the Chongqing Morning Post reported.
Wu Hainu, 31, from Zhuji, a city in Zhejiang province, is accused of hiring nearly a thousand cars in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shanghai during the last three months, some from individuals and others from car rental companies.
One man surnamed Li, said he rented two Porsches worth 2.1 million yuan to Wu at a rate of 800 yuan a day in September.
He told the newspaper that all payments had been made on time until she suddenly disappeared earlier this month.
“We settled the account every five days and it had been normal. Wu stopped paying me in mid December and could not be reached after that,” Li said.
He tried to track down his cars using global positioning technology and discovered one was now in Hangzhou, the capital of Zheijang, while the other was 230km (140 miles) away in Taizhou. It was not clear whether he had been able to recover his cars.
A Ferrari owner, also named Li, said Wu had hired his car on December 12 at a rate of 2,000 yuan a day and told him she was a wedding organiser.
But when she failed to pay him on time he tracked down the car and found that it had been impounded and was being kept in a warehouse outside Taizou along with other cars that had been used a collateral for loans.
He said that there were at least 14 high-end cars being kept there and he had so far been unable to recover his vehicle.
Other car owners said their vehicles had been traced to other Chinese provinces – some as far away as Gansu in the remote northwest – while others have had their GPS disabled and their whereabouts are unknown.
Some owners said they had been able to recover their cars, but others are still being held against loans taken out by Wu.
One owner told the newspaper they were worried the vehicles would be auctioned off “at great loss” to pay off the loans.
Wu is suspected of using a variety of false documents, including ID cards, driving licences and car ownership certificates to rent the cars and to borrow money from a variety of sources. These included microcredit companies, illegal money lenders and individuals.
Around 1,000 vehicles were used as collateral for the loans and in some cases they were pawned for much less than their second-hand value. For instance, a Porsche 458, which could fetch 1.8 million yuan on the market, was pawned for 980,000 yuan.
The lenders included a wedding planning agency in Taizhou that had taken 20 cars as collateral for a 50 million yuan.
In other cases, individuals who lent money using companies as middleman are now at risk of losing their money.
Those affected include a man in his seventies who lent nearly a million yuan.
This article Chinese police hunt fugitive who used rented luxury cars to borrow over US$14m first appeared on South China Morning Post