Falun Lin fooled more than one generous stranger in Wollongong’s Crown Street Mall when he masqueraded as a Buddhist monk to solicit donations from the public.
But, in reality, he was just a broke impostor who had gambled away all his money while holidaying in Australia.
Police were alerted to Lin’s scam last Friday afternoon by a man who had fallen victim to a similar hoax in Sydney just weeks earlier.
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They arrived to discover Lin, clad in an orange robe with his hands outstretched, soliciting donations in exchange for beads on the corner of Crown and Keira streets.
His bag contained two mobile phones, a large amount of beads and a ledger full of documented donations, including some surprisingly large sums for anyone to have actually paid for beads, police noted.
The officers took Lin’s details but allowed him to leave, pending further investigations, and after attempting to make it clear that he should not continue asking for money.
But Lin, 47, lasted just two minutes before police again found him with his hand outstretched towards a woman about 200 metres away, on Crown Street.
The woman told police Lin had asked her for a donation, and she had assumed he was from the local temple.
When police caught up with Lin at Wollongong train station, he was no longer wearing a robe or carrying a bag.
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He told officers he was a Buddhist but not a monk, but that he would dress like that back in China sometimes.
He was arrested and charged with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception before being released on court bail on Saturday morning.
Lin reappeared in court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to the charge.
Legal Aid lawyer Claire Carpenter said Lin was a prawn farmer who lived in rural China with his wife and two children. She said he was in Wollongong last Friday sightseeing and had only solicited between $10 and $20 in donations before he was apprehended.
The court heard Lin was charged with identical offences in Parramatta on March 31 and that immigration authorities were considering revoking his visitor’s visa, which expires in May, as a consequence.
He was fined $500 in Parramatta Local Court for that offence.
Magistrate Michael Stoddart accepted submissions from Ms Carpenter that there was limited utility in imposing a fine, noting that he had used some of his ill-gotten funds to pay his last fine.
He instead placed Lin on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
“If you breach this bond I will have no hesitation in imposing a jail sentence,” he said.
“It’s very dishonest and very disrespectful to the people you were pretending to be.”