Six men were executed in northern China last month for killing mine workers and then claiming millions of yuan in compensation from the pit owners.
The defendants claimed the compensation by posing as the victims' relatives and saying the workers died in industrial accidents, according to a verdict from Linfen Intermediate People's Court in Shanxi province, reported by Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper at the weekend.
The six farmers were sentenced to death for murder and were executed on April 12, the report said.
The court said the six men - Peng Wanjun, Guo Dejing, Wang Honglin, Zhang Yuanmei, Bai Yuangui and Liu Xuejun - killed 11 workers in mines in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces between 2007 and 2014, cheating the mining companies out of a combined 3.1 million yuan ($693,000) in compensation.
The case appears to mirror the plot in the film Blind Shaft, a Chinese movie that won a Silver Bear award at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival.
The film was based on sensational crimes committed by three gangs in the late 1990s, in which some 200 workers were killed after being lured to work in mines.
The six criminals in the latest case were aged between 22 and 47 and from poor remote villages in Shaanxi.
They convinced rural migrant workers - usually their co-workers at other companies, fellow villagers, single men, or mentally disabled men - to work in the pits and persuaded them to use the identity cards of gang members' relatives to apply for the jobs.
Eight victims were found to have used the name Fu Wanli, the cousin of ring leader Peng, while working in the mines, the report said.
In one of their early crimes, the gang convinced a 31-year-old man with the surname Yin to work at a small mine in a village in Linfen, registering him as Fu.
Two weeks later, three gang members killed Yin in the mine by hitting him on the head with an axe and stones.
They later received 220,000 yuan ($49,200) in compensation from the mine owner, according to the report.
In another incident, the gang set off explosions in a mine but failed to kill their target, a 35-year-old man surnamed Xiao.
A week later, two of the gang members clubbed him with an axe and rocks, leaving him unconscious and telling the mine owner it was an industrial accident.
The owner told them to send Xiao to the hospital but the three men suffocated Xiao on the way there with a quilt. They cheated the mining owner out of 170,000 yuan ($38,000) in compensation.
A 23-year-old worker with a surname Han sustained minor wounds after being hit in the head by two gang members in January 2013.
He was sent to hospital in time to save his life and was the only survivor among the gang's victims.
Because all the victims were poor and desperate to earn money, they were willing to put their lives at risk by working in the mines, the court said.
Beijing has spent decades trying to improve working conditions for its coal miners, but the industry remains one of the country's deadliest.
In 2015, a court in Yangquan, Shanxi province, sentenced four men to death for murdering three mine workers using the same compensation scam, The Paper reported.
-South China Morning Post