Yesterday, (3 March), Muhammad Helmi Mohamed Shariff was sentenced to a minimum of 7 years preventive detention for scamming a total of S$22,390 from unsuspecting victims.
Muhammad Helmi pleaded guilty to 5 counts of cheating with another 11 charges taken into consideration by the court for sentencing.
Muhammad Helmi had impersonated as a Singapore Customs officer and duped a cleaner at Tampines MRT Station to believe that he could buy gold bars at a low price and resell them back in Malaysia. The victim paid Muhammad Helmi S$1,300 and was later scammed into introducing more “customers’ to him. In the following months, Muhammad Helmi hoodwinked another 8 victims – amassing up to a sum of S$22,390.
Muhammad Helmi’s crimes in 2018
In early 2018, Muhammad Helmi, posing as a Customs Officer, had conned a cleaner into believing he was purchasing two cars – a Proton Perdana and a Mercedes Benz for a sum of S$300. He then convinced the cleaner that the cars were impounded at Johor and therefore needed S$1,000 for their release. However, the cars did not arrive and neither was the money returned. A year later, the cleaner finally lodged a police complaint after having enough of the continuous excuses from the con artist.
In another instance, Muhammad Helmi swindled a woman who intended to purchase a home. Muhammad Helmi showed her photographs of two landed properties and lied that the Government had repossessed them and that the Singapore Customs was selling them for a mere S$750.
Upon borrowing money from friends and relatives, as well as pawning her own wedding jewellery, she gave Muhammad Helmi a sum of S$5,250. In January 2019, after failing to deliver on his promises, Muhammad Helmi tricked her out of another S$1,000 for a “processing fee” to gain a loan from an unlicensed moneylender. All throughout the woman paid S$6,250.
Another victim of his scams was a 76-year-old retiree whom he met at a hawker centre near Haig Road in December 2018. Upon learning that the retiree was fond of luxury watches, Muhammad Helmi conned the elderly man into handing over S$9,000 for 10 fake Rolex and Omega watches. Fortunately, the retiree’s son grew suspicious of the huge withdrawals of money from their joint bank account and raised questions.
Similarly, Muhammad Helmi tricked a Malaysian woman into paying him for the purchase of a piano, iPhone, MacBook laptop, and also a fake gold chain purportedly seized by Customs.
Taking into account all the losses incurred by eight of his victims, the total sum of his con game stood at S$22,390.
Muhammad Helmi’s history of crime
Muhammad Helmi was reported to have had a long history of cheating offences. He was sentenced to five years of corrective training in 2013 for cheating offences and was jailed three times in 2004, 2006, and 2009.
Muhammad Helmi was initially released on licence upon serving two-thirds of his sentence. However, he returned to his old ways of preying upon unsuspecting victims.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sanjiv Vaswani described Muhammad Helmi as having demonstrated a “lack of propensity for rehabilitation”.