A well-known Chinese micro-blogger whose online posts were criticized for tarnishing the reputation of the Red Cross Society of China was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 50,000 yuan ($11,072) on Thursday for operating gambling houses.
Guo Meimei, 24, was sentenced after a 10-hour trial in Beijing Dongcheng District People's Court. No appeal was announced, reports AsiaOne.
The trial attracted more than 100 viewers in the public gallery, including journalists and her family members.
Judge Lin Meimei found Guo guilty of organizing gambling groups in two rented rooms of a Beijing apartment in 2013. She had been accused of inviting about 10 people to play cards on three occasions in which the stakes exceeded 2 million yuan.
A partner, Zhao Xiaolai, who was found guilty of managing the operation's gambling accounts, was sentenced on Thursday to two years in prison and fined 20,000 yuan.
Guo became a national Internet celebrity in 2011 when she claimed association with the Red Cross humanitarian group and using social media to show off her luxury possessions, such as Hermes handbags, and an extravagant lifestyle.
The posts triggered concerns about how the State-owned charitable organization used its donations. She later said she had nothing to do with the Red Cross and apologized to the group and the public.
Guo apologized for her actions during the trial, but argued they fell short of a crime.
"I know I am wrong and I regret it, but I believe the law can provide me with a fair verdict instead of giving me heavier punishment over the past incident between me and the Red Cross," Guo said.
Guo came under public scrutiny in July last year after Beijing police found an Internet soccer gambling group during the World Cup. Guo was detained on suspicion of running a casino after police caught eight gamblers.
"I don't think the charge is right, as the rooms were rented by my ex-boyfriend and my assistant, Lyu Lili, and I never intended to use the rooms for gambling," Guo said. "All three group gambling settings were developed later."
During the hearings, Guo's lawyer Wu Junqiang had asked the court to exclude some evidence he said was improperly obtained, including frequent, long interrogations that occurred at midnight.
"Getting the evidence when my client was fatigued is illegal under the law, so I hope the court will review it," Wu said. "In addition, I applied to watch a complete video of when the police interrogated Guo."
The judge reviewed Wu's motions, but later said there was no evidence of police impropriety during the interrogations.