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She Ran a 'Love Village' for Kids. Now, 20 Years in Prison

Li Yanxia, who adopted 118 children, was less loving mother, more fraudster, Chinese court found
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2019 10:45 AM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/ChiccoDodiFC)

(Newser) – A wealthy businesswoman who became known as the "Love Mother" in China for adopting more than 100 children has a new label now: convicted fraudster. The BBC reports that 54-year-old Li Yanxia (aka Li Lijuan) was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Hebei province after being found guilty of extortion, forgery, and disturbing social order, in addition to fraud. Li's story became famous in China more than a decade ago when she started adopting kids at a rapid pace, saying she was inspired to help children after supposedly getting her own son back from the clutches of traffickers. She adopted so many kids that she eventually opened up an orphanage she called "Love Village," with 118 children in her care at one point in 2017.

Her lovefest soon began to unravel. The Chinese government started getting tips on Li, who reportedly had built much of her fortune on iron mining investments and company ownership, and an investigation soon uncovered illegal activities going back to 2011. Per the Global Times, the Wu'an court found that Li had "abused the orphanage's influence and committed fraud ... among other crimes, to obtain vast economic benefit." Among the allegations: that she'd made some of her adopted kids run under trucks on construction sites so they couldn't do their work; she then blackmailed those construction companies. Li's boyfriend and 14 other accomplices have also been convicted. A lawyer for Li, who was also hit with a $388,000 fine in addition to her jail sentence, tells local media she's likely to appeal. (Read more adoption stories.)

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