Woman who marred reputation of China Red Cross jailed

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BEIJING (AP) — A woman who marred the reputation of China's Red Cross with social media posts on her extravagant lifestyle was sentenced Thursday to five years in jail for running gambling activities.

Dongcheng District Court in Beijing said Guo Meimei ran casino operations out of private apartments in the capital with bets totaling nearly 3 million yuan ($500,000).

Guo became notorious when she claimed in 2011 to have connections to the Red Cross Society of China and posted photos on social media flaunting her extravagant lifestyle, including a Maserati and a Lamborghini.

Her posts quickly fueled public anger and raised concerns whether the charity had misused the donations. Although Guo later retracted her claims of Red Cross connections, the damage was done and donations to the organization by members of the public dropped.

Red Cross officials have to distance the charity from the woman, yet her name has become a byword for lack of credibility on the part of Red Cross, whose operations remain opaque.

Guo was detained by police in July 2014. Because of the high public attention Guo commands, the court streamed updates on Thursday's proceedings, including photos from the courtroom, in China's social media. Comments left on the court's updates praised the woman for exposing China's Red Cross, even incidentally.

The court photos showed Guo in a plain, white blouse and wearing no makeup, in contrast to the more flirtatious selfies she had posted in the past.

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