An ex-constituency manager with the People’s Association (PA) became “victim” of love scams set up allegedly by foreign men and helped them to open bank accounts and transfer funds which were profits from criminal activities.
For playing a role in the crimes involving approximately S$430,000, 62-year-old Ng Koon Lay was sentenced to 20 months in jail on Wednesday (12 August).
She pleaded guilty to three offences under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, as well as one count of dishonestly obtaining stolen property. A total of 16 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
It was heard in court that everything started in March 2015 when Ng met an unidentified person who she knew as Greg L Johnson on Facebook.
Since she had some financial difficulties, Ng asked for a loan from Greg, in which he later told her that he had a friend who is willing to lend her S$9,000. However, the loan comes with a catch. Ng was asked to provide her bank account details in order to receive the funds.
She had to also forward the cash to a different bank account before she was allowed to minus off the sum that she needed.
Ng agreed to the offer and furnished Greg with her UOB bank account details. Following that, a total of S$71,000 was transferred to her account before she forwarded S$62,000 of it to another account as told.
In September 2016, the former PA employee got a call from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) as they wanted her to attend an interview. The department also warned her to not receive any more funds in her bank account as it had been used to transfer illegal funds.
During the interview, she was warned again to not keep in touch with Greg and not receive any more funds from unknown people. She was even asked to report on the matter to the police if she gets more money from Greg.
Ng had to also surrender her Facebook account, which was used to communicate with Greg.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li notified the court that the S$71,000 that Ng received was in fact transferred by a victim of an email spoofing scam.
Opened another Facebook account despite warning from CAD
Despite warnings from the CAD, Ng went ahead and opened a new Facebook account in order to communicate with Greg once again. She asked him for another loan.
Just like the previous arrangement, she was again offered to deduct the needed sum after transferring the amount to another bank account.
This time she received US$88,000 (S$118,360) in her Citibank account and transferred S$89,860 to a bank account that is owned by a company.
If that’s not all, she also forwarded S$22,000 to a different account and kept S$6,500 for her personal use.
It appears that the US$88,000 was gained from a stolen property that had been cheated from a staff of a company, who had been tricked into transferring the cash.
Additionally, Ng also helped another man known as David Bay, whom she met online in 2015 and contacted through WhatsApp.
In 2017, David got in contact with Ng and told her he wants her to provide bank accounts in order to receive funds, allegedly for his hospitalisation fees and his business.
As an exchange, Ng can use some of the funds in the accounts. She agreed to help David and opened two new bank accounts.
She decided to help David even after receiving repeated warnings from CAD to not give out her bank details for such purposes, and was under two sets of investigations.
“Despite this, she agreed to help David, whom she had never met before,” the prosecutor said.
“The accused was also aware that David had lied to her, as David had continued to correspond with the accused over WhatsApp, despite claiming to be incarcerated in prison.”
Additionally, the court also heard that between 4 September 2017 and 18 September 2017, four victims of Internet love scams transferred S$47,050 into her bank account.
Between 18 August and 27 August 2017, another victim of a love scam transferred S$174,750 into her CIMB account.
Mr Li had asked the court to grant Ng at least 22 months’ jail, given her involvement in the scams and the fact that she had also repeated ignore CAD’s specific warnings.
Defence argued that Ng was a victim of love scams
Defence lawyer Tan Hee Joek argued that his client was a victim of love scams herself, and requested for a jail term of one year.
She was courted by both Greg and David, thinking that they were an American sailor and an oil trader from Switzerland respectively.
Trusting that Greg’s luggage had been detained in Malaysia by the customs as it contained more than US$1 million in cash, Ng made her way to Kuala Lumpur in 2014 where she was shown the alleged luggage with the cash.
It was said that she transferred more than S$160,000 to “help” Greg by selling her three-bedroom HDB flat and borrowing from others.
As for David, she also believed that he had been arrested by Singapore Customs for not declaring the huge sum of money he brought into the country.
Mr Tan told the court that his client was “a lonely single woman who carried a burden of looking after her mentally and physically disabled sister” and was a “perfect vulnerable victim” to be used by Greg and David.
“Ng has already paid a severe price for her blinded love by losing her livelihood, her flat and her savings,” he said.
For dishonestly receiving stolen property, Ng could have been jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.
As for assisting another person to retain benefits from criminal conduct, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both.