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todayonline - 1 month ago

Ex-People’s Association manager jailed for helping love scammers despite police warnings

Ng Koon Lay was sentenced to one year and eight months’ jail She helped the first scammer move cash from scam victims to other accounts She started bank accounts at the behest of the second scammer SINGAPORE — While looking for love, a 64-year-old woman fell into the hands of two scammers who tricked her into opening bank accounts for money laundering purposes. When Ng Koon Lay received money there, some from other victims of internet love scams, she transferred the cash to other accounts. She persisted in her ways despite repeated warnings from the police’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) not to give out her bank account details and contact the scammers. On Wednesday (Aug 12), Ng, a former constituency manager with the People’s Association, was sentenced to one year and eight months’ jail. The People’s Association, where she was employed for 35 years, fired her in 2018 when she was charged with her offences. She pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, transferring criminal proceeds to other bank accounts, and opening accounts for criminal proceeds. Sixteen other similar charges were considered for sentencing. In mitigation, her lawyer Tan Hee Joek told the court that she works as a clerk now and has been the primary caregiver of her mentally ill, wheelchair-bound older sister for the past four decades. WEB OF LIES Ng got to know the first scammer, identified as Greg L Johnson, on Facebook in March 2015. They stayed in touch there and by phone. Ng’s lawyer, Mr Tan, said that Johnson had claimed he was a 58-year-old American sailor. Around 2015, Johnson told her that he wanted to deliver some documents and substantial money in a luggage for her safekeeping, so they could get married and live together in comfort. But he later said his luggage had been detained in transit in Malaysia. Ng not only flew to Kuala Lumpur to visit the office of the company purportedly holding the luggage. She also transferred more than S$160,000 to the firm, Mr Tan said. To do so, she sold her three-room Housing and Development Board flat, borrowed from friends and relatives, and incurred unsecured loans from credit cards. In August 2016, more than a year after they met online, she asked Johnson for a loan because she was having financial problems. He later told her that his friend was willing to lend her S$9,000. Ng, however, had to provide her United Overseas Bank account details and forward S$71,000 that she received — purportedly from Johnson’s friend — to another account. She was allowed to take S$9,000 from that sum. Unknown to her, the money came from the victim of an email-spoofing scam, who was led to believe that his employer told him to transfer the cash. A month later, in September 2016, CAD asked Ng to attend an interview, where police officers told her to stop communicating with Johnson and report him to the authorities if she received more money. They also warned her over the phone not to accept more cash because it was illegal. Even though she surrendered her Facebook account to CAD, she set up another account to communicate with Johnson. She also asked him for a further loan. On Sept 29, 2016, she received US$88,000 (about S$120,000) in her Citibank account. She transferred most of it to two other accounts, keeping S$6,500 as her loan. An employee of an investment and management group had transferred the US$88,000, thinking his director told him to do so in an email. SCAM VICTIMS PUT CASH INTO HER ACCOUNTS In 2015, Ng got acquainted with another scammer, identified as David Bay. They stayed in touch via messaging application WhatsApp. He told Ng he was a 54-year-old oil trader from Switzerland who intended to marry her and move to Singapore to start an oil trading business. Bay told her he had been detained by the Singapore Customs for failing to declare a large sum of cash he was taking into Singapore. He also lied that he needed to pay the authorities S$280,000 before being released, said Mr Tan. In 2017, he told her that he needed bank accounts to receive funds for his hospitalisation fees and business. In return, she could use some of the money. She set up two Maybank and CIMB accounts, before mailing the bank cards and their personal identification numbers to a Malaysian address given by Bay. In August and September 2017, five victims of internet love scams transferred S$221,800 to the accounts. Most of the money was later withdrawn through overseas automated teller machines. At that time, CAD had already issued Ng with repeated warnings and placed her under two sets of investigations. She was also aware that Bay had lied to her, since he continued to chat with her via WhatsApp despite claiming he was in jail. Mr Tan said that Ng was a lonely single woman who shouldered the burden of looking after her mentally and physically disabled sister, and was thus “a perfect vulnerable victim that Greg and David could easily exploit”. “She is deeply remorseful for carrying out the wishes of Greg and David, and (has) resolved never to even think of entering into a love relationship.”


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