(CNN) – Eleven members of the same Chinese family allegedly staged 23 fake marriages within two weeks — all to access free housing.
The scam started when a man named Pan heard about an urban renewal compensation scheme in one part of a small village in Lishui city, eastern Zhejiang province, according to state media.
Local residents were being offered a modest apartment measuring at least 40 square meters (430 square feet), even if they did not own property, the People’s Daily reported.
Pan quickly re-married his ex-wife who lived in the village, only to divorce her again six days later.
Other family members soon joined the alleged scam. Pan married his sister, then her sister-in-law, then Pan’s father wed a few relatives, even his own mother, within the same period.
After each wedding, they registered as residents of the village, before filing for divorce. The newly minted residents then married again, creating more residents.
Three times in just one week, Pan registered three marriages at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the report said.
The alleged scam was uncovered last Thursday after the committee overseeing the village’s redevelopment lodged a complaint with police.
All 11 members of the family have been arrested for alleged fraud, People’s Daily reported. Four people have been detained, while others have been released on bail. Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident.
China has rapidly developed over recent decades and it is common for villages to be demolished for urban renewal projects. In 2011, the State Council passed regulations detailing how residents should be compensated if they are ordered to relocate.
The audacity of the family’s alleged plan captivated users on China’s social media platforms.
“Even screenwriters would not dare to create a plot like this,” wrote one person on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
“There are obviously loopholes in the system,” commented another. “Can you just blame the family for being greedy?”