Huo Youjin and four women were detained at Vancouver’s airport last month as they tried to return to China.
Canada Border Services Agency say they were carrying $148,000 in cash between them, as well as a large amount of jewelry.
The cash was concealed between the pages of magazines, in the lining of suitcases and inserted inside feminine hygiene products.
Last week, Vancouver police said they have received 13 reported cases where elderly Chinese women have been tricked into giving away large amounts of cash and jewelry in a so-called blessing scam.
Today, Huo was the first to appear at an immigration hearing to determine whether he entered the country improperly.
His lawyer, Jack Wang, argued there could be cultural reasons for concealing cash and jewelry and suggested Huo could have been concerned that officials would steal what they found in his luggage.
Wang says while his client has not yet been charged under the Criminal Code, the immigration hearing could result in penalties that could affect his ability to travel.
"Even without any pending criminal charges, there are still very severe consequences for him if he's found inadmissible to Canada,” Wang said. “Because he's not only unable to come back to Canada, but it would affect his privilege. It's not a right to go to other countries.”
Vancouver Police say suspects in the so-called blessing scam convinced Chinese seniors that they would need to have a large sum of money and jewelry blessed by a spiritual doctor to ward off the bad luck.
The suspects then arrange for the seniors to meet them again a few hours later with their valuables.
Once the suspects receive the goods, they have the victims put them in a bag to be blessed and tell them not to check the contents for a specific period.
But when the bag is opened, the seniors are alarmed to learn that their valuables have been replaced with worthless items.
Huo and the four women remain in custody and are expected to make their next appearance at the immigration hearing on Aug. 21.Suggest a correction