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11.29.2010

Eddie Zhao, Private Investigator



Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times ran a really cool story on Eddie Zhao, a poor Chinese peasant-turned-Los Angeles private investigator. Once the victim of a con himself, he now helps Chinese immigrants to the San Gabriel Valley who fall prey to swindlers -- and there are a lot of them: Eddie Zhao is on their side.

There's never a shortage of marks looking to be reunited with their lost cash. There's the guy who paid $30,000 for a Porsche he'd never seen, which was supposed to be shipped from Taiwan. The dozens of women who fell victim to the fly-by-night matchmaking agency that promised to marry all of them off to the same man. The men who went on blind dates with a woman, only to find their homes cleaned out when they returned.

One growth area in the world of scams is trans-Pacific fraud. Swindlers from China cold-call business owners in the San Gabriel Valley, inviting them to China to start joint ventures. The manager of a local casino-dealer school received such a call and hired Zhao to do a background check. It turned out that the same caller had conned many other local businesses. One man actually flew to China, where his hosts wined and dined and then threatened to kill him. He'd already given them $20,000, but they wanted more.

The gold-nuggets con already had been played out in China when an elderly lady from Rosemead became a casualty. She forked over $100,000 in cash to have the treasures delivered to her home.

"She didn't suspect anything until the next day," said Zhao, who was hired to help get the money back. "By then the guy's phone had been disconnected."

The guy has a pretty amazing story. It's awesome too see that he's used his own misfortune to turn things around and help folks within the Chinese American community, where there seems to be no shortage of swindlers and their victims. Am I the only one who thinks Eddie Zhao's story would make a fantastic movie or TV series?