Vancouver lawyer Dongdong Huang claimed that Peipei Li tricked him into believing she loved him and wanted to marry him so he would shower her with more than $1 million in cash and gifts.
But a judge has ruled that Huang was actually an infatuated friend who refused to take no for an answer. In fact, Huang’s treatment of the much younger Li was at times “obsessive and borderline (at least) stalking,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elaine Adair said in a decision dismissing Huang’s claims of fraud.
“In my opinion, Dr. Huang’s assertions that Ms. Li represented she was in love with him and available for a long-term spousal relationship with him are a product of Dr. Huang’s imagination and his infatuation with Ms. Li,” Adair wrote in a judgment on Monday.
“Ms. Li in fact communicated the opposite of what Dr. Huang asserts … and she never had any intention of deceiving him about her feelings. However, Dr. Huang would not accept what Ms. Li was telling him.”
Huang, who has a doctorate in law and is also a published poet, filed suit against Li after learning that for the five months he believed they were in a romantic relationship, she was engaged and then married to another man.
Now 62, Huang acknowledged in court that he’d never had sex with Li, and in fact had only ever kissed her on the forehead.
Nonetheless, he testified they’d had a “spousal and lover relationship” that she’d used to convince him to hand over the bulk of his life savings to her and her family members. That includes wiring about $580,000 to relatives in China.
‘Dr. Huang heard and saw only what he wanted’
But WeChat messages entered into evidence at trial show that on multiple occasions, Li had rebuffed Huang’s romantic overtures, writing at one point, “I have clearly expressed my thoughts that I will not be with you … To me, you are like an elder brother, an elder, like a father or an elder brother.”
Most photos that Huang snapped during the time of their supposed relationship also show Li wearing a large and very prominent diamond engagement ring, a detail that Huang claimed he didn’t notice.
“Dr. Huang heard and saw only what he wanted to hear and see,” Adair wrote.
“The only excuse acceptable to Dr. Huang’s pride, based on how things turned out with Ms. Li, is, not that he was love-struck and blindly infatuated with her, but that he was tricked and lied to by her.”
Li, an office administrator who is now 35, became engaged to a wealthy Chinese businessman named Luhua Rao shortly after she met Huang for the first time in June 2015.
Li and Rao were married in Las Vegas in April 2016, though the union was short-lived. As it turns out, Rao was already married to another woman — but that’s another story altogether.
Together, Li and Rao incorporated LPP Properties with plans of investing millions of dollars in Lower Mainland real estate.
Beginning in March 2016, Huang began helping Li with certain business matters as well as providing some legal services for LPP.
At around the same time, Huang began writing poems about Li, including one entitled Long-awaited Puppy Love.
The judge’s 133-page decision details numerous meetings between the pair when it appears Huang interpreted Li’s expressions of friendship and affection as love, as well as long strings of emotional WeChat messages Huang sent late at night.
‘Obsessive’ behaviour begins as friendship falls apart
Things began unravelling in August 2016 when Huang realized that Li was romantically involved with Rao, according to the judgment. That’s when the “obsessive” behaviour kicked into full gear, Adair said.
Huang copied a vacation itinerary from the notebook of Li’s assistant and called hotels where Li and Rao would be staying to find out the sleeping arrangements, the judgment shows.
Using the flight details in the itinerary, Huang showed up at Vancouver International Airport upon the couple’s return and watched them get into a cab together. Huang then drove to Li’s house and parked outside, listening to snippets of Li and Rao’s conversation for about half an hour.
His friendship and business relationship with Li apparently fell apart during an angry confrontation at Vancouver’s famed Vij’s restaurant not long after that.
According to the judgment, Li sent Huang WeChat messages after that dinner accusing him of “serious harassment” and told him to stop contacting her. She then wrote him a bank draft for about $193,000 and returned gifts of expensive jewelry from Tiffany’s.
Adair’s judgment does raise questions about Li’s morals in facilitating cash transfers to her family members, saying those could be “perhaps criticized very harshly.” But questionable morals are not equivalent to fraud, the judge said.
Despite dismissing most of Huang’s claims, Adair did order Li to pay Huang $2,280 for unjust enrichment — the amount Huang paid for repair of stucco and tree trimming around Li’s home, services the judge found were not meant to be gifts.
At the same time, Adair ordered Huang to present Li with an accounting of $1,000 that he was supposed to hold in trust for her.
Adair dismissed Huang’s claims against Li’s company and her brother.