The man, who identified himself as "Hushang'afei", post photos on his Weibo account, showing the stolen cell phones. [Photo: weibo.com]
An online marketing company has apologized for setting up a bogus microblog account on which an employee posed as a skilled pickpocket to promote a mobile phone brand.
The man, who identified himself as "Hushang'afei" - meaning "Shanghai hooligan" in Chinese slang - opened a Weibo microblogging account a week ago.
He gained online notoriety, and thousands of hits, with his boasts that he was making a comfortable living stealing wallets and cell phones from Metro passengers.
The "hooligan" even taunted police by uploading pictures of his alleged spoils.
But yesterday, after police began investigating and the "Shanghai hooligan" account was closed by Weibo, online marketing company Avazu admitted that it was behind the microblog - and that the self-styled "Shanghai hooligan" was an employee surnamed Lin.
In a statement, Avazu apologized for the stunt and for misleading any web users into thinking the posts were from a real thief.
The company said the pictures uploaded were simply belongings lent to Lin by colleagues.
Earlier, as it investigated the posts, Shanghai police said that "we want to warn that any illegal act will incur punishment."
Police had earlier said the "Shanghai hooligan" microblog account was being used to promote Green Orange cell phones through exhibiting them among apparently stolen goods.
Last Wednesday, "Shanghai hooligan" posted a photograph of what he said were stolen wallets, claiming to have followed 10 passengers on Metro Line 8 and pickpocketed eight - netting around 6,000 yuan (US$951).
The next day he posted a picture of bank cards saying he had made 2,000 yuan on a pickpocketing spree. "Everyone's busy on the first day back to work after the holiday, so I made away with lots of loot," he boasted.
He also uploaded a picture of what he claimed were his cell phone spoils, and said a Green Orange phone was his favorite.
The "hooligan" also claimed to be a Robin Hood figure, saying he would return stolen cell phones if the victim earned less than 3,000 yuan a month.
"Yes, I am a thief! But you are not qualified to call me thief! I've seen so many people who are rich but immoral," he wrote.
Police said that their investigations are continuing.