Wanna Buy Some Ants?

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By any standard it was a pretty big scam. Wang Zhendong allegedly bilked investors of $380 million, and a court in northeast China sentenced him to death on Wednesday. What truly made the story unique was the nature of the fraud. It was an ant-breeding pyramid scam. The victims in this case were sold ants, which are used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for arthritis, then told to raise them for a guaranteed payoff later. The amounted bilked puts this case in the same dollar range as Chen Liangyu’s alleged theft in Shanghai. It’s a good example of what officials say is a growing trend of economic crimes on the mainland. But I’d guess it’s the unusual ant angle that made editors around the world decide this was a must-run story. (It’s certainly the reason I decided to blog it.) The bugs are sort of like the diaper that police said NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak was wearing when she set off on the cross-country drive that ended in the alleged assault of a romantic rival. The $380 million swindle was huge, but it needed an insect connection to inspire a headline like “DEFEND-ANT TO DIE.”