Couple arrested for selling 'blessed' Elmo

2012-02-10 12:30

Taipei - A Taiwan couple was arrested after being accused of posing as Tantric Buddhist masters and persuading their believers to buy blessed dolls of the Sesame Street character Elmo to take home and worship, local media reported on Friday.

Lin Pin, aged 56, and Yang Mei-chiao, aged 53, were taken into custody on Wednesday on charges of fraud, the Apple Daily newspaper said.

The couple ran a Buddhist shrine in Taoyuan county with Lin allegedly claiming he was a high-ranking Buddhist monk in a previous life and had powers to heal the sick.

Police said they confiscated Elmo dolls, holy water and elixir pills that the couple sold to their more than 100 followers.

The authorities also found accounting records showing the suspects collected $3.4m from their activities, police said.

A local businessman, named only as Tsai, tipped off police after claiming he gave them $240 000 over 10 years to use their powers to heal his cerebral palsy-stricken daughter and improve his construction business.

Tsai said he spent $34 000 on a saintly Elmo and paid for the couple to travel abroad to bring him a wandering god to protect his family.

He decided to report them to police when his daughter's condition did not improve and his business lost a lot of money.