Chinese 'love mother' jailed for fraud

A 54-year-old Chinese woman who was once hailed as a philanthropist for adopting 118 children has been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Li Yanxia was found guilty at Wu'an Court in Hebei province on Wednesday of extortion, fraud, forgery and disturbing social order.

The former orphanage owner, who was once nicknamed "Love Mother", was also fined 2.67m yuan (£311,000; $388,000).

Fifteen accomplices, including her boyfriend, were also convicted.

The court found that Li Yanxia - also known as Li Lijuan - had "abused the orphanage's influence".

"[She] committed fraud together with the gang amongst other crimes to obtain vast economic benefit," said a post released by the Wu'an City People's Court on microblogging site Weibo.

Her boyfriend Xu Qi was charged with disturbing social order, extortion, fraud and intentional injury. He received a sentence of 12.5 years in jail and a fine of 1.2m yuan.

Some of the other 14 accomplices received jail terms of up to four years.

Li first shot to fame in 2006 after the media got wind of the fact that she had been adopting dozens of children in her hometown of Wu'an, a small city in the province of Hebei.

She told media outlets that she had once been married but had divorced. Her ex-husband had sold their son to a trafficker for 7,000 yuan, she alleged. She said she had managed to get her son back - and it was then that she decided she wanted to try to help other children.

Over the years she accrued significant wealth, becoming one of the richest women in Hebei. In the mid-1990s she invested in an iron mining company, and eventually became its owner.