Guo Meimei became an internet sensation in China during 2011 after she published numerous photos on social media depicting a lavish lifestyle of flashy cars, VIP parties and a number of boy toys. Her extravagant lifestyle led many to question from where she was obtaining her money as she was supposed to be working with the Red Cross.
Meimei was making her money by operating a number of illegal casinos in posh flats and having a very high profile clientele. Gambling is illegal in Mainland China but there are a number of underground dens who operate without the knowledge of the authorities. The 24 year old Meimei used her internet celebrity status and her high profile contacts to lure VIP gamblers to her undercover gambling operation and made enormous sums of money from this illegal operation.
Chinese authorities arrested the internet star and she was prosecuted for running an illegal gambling operation. She was tried in the Beijing Dongcheng People’s Court and was found guilty of running an illegal gambling operation. Meimei was fined $7,800 by the court and sentenced to five years in prison. She is yet to decide if she should accept the decision and serve her time or appeal to a higher court and see if the decision can be overturned.
Meimei had admitted to participating in illegal gambling activities but denied running illegal casinos. In a statement, Meimei said “I shouldn’t have participated in gambling, but I don’t think my actions constituted (a) crime. I know I have made mistakes, and I’m truly regretful”. Zhao Xiaolai who was Meimei’s accomplice in the illegal gambling operation was also found guilty and fined $3,300 and sentenced to two years in prison.
The trial of Meimei was covered extensively by news channels and social media websites in China and the Beijing Dongcheng People’s Court also posted real time updates on its Twitter account, giving the public a close view of the proceedings. Chinese authorities want this case to be an example to deter other illegal gambling operators from running underground casinos in China.
The Red Cross in China has also suffered from being associated with Meimei and when the scandal broke, the charity experienced a sixty percent drop in donations. The Red Cross has denied having any contact with the internet celebrity but is yet to recover from the damage that Meimei has caused.