'CAD probing Singaporean' wanted over $72m US scam

Ho's alleged accomplices in the US investment scam include (from far right) Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, who is still at large, as well as Americans Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler-Jacobs.
Ho's alleged accomplices in the US investment scam include Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, who is still at large, as well as Americans Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler-Jacobs (above).PHOTOS: ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, ROYAL TURF CLUB/FACEBOOK
Ho's alleged accomplices in the US investment scam include (from far right) Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, who is still at large, as well as Americans Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler-Jacobs.
Ho's alleged accomplices in the US investment scam include (above) Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, who is still at large, as well as Americans Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler-Jacobs.PHOTOS: ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, ROYAL TURF CLUB/FACEBOOK

80-year-old, an ex-owner of numerous firms, is out on bail over unrelated case, sources say

An 80-year-old Singaporean wanted for his alleged role in a multimillion-dollar scam in the US is being investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) here.

The man, Ho Fook Kee, is out on bail for a case unrelated to the scam in the United States, sources told The Straits Times. But details of the case in Singapore are not known.

A Singapore police spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment as investigations are ongoing.

ST tracked down the full name and employment history of the man known only as F.K. Ho in US court documents.

He was formerly the director and owner of numerous companies in the oil and gas industry, based on a search of local company records.

US indictment papers alleged that the group had promised "exponential" returns, where a US$1 million investment could yield US$150 million in less than four months.

Ho's last known address in 2010 was a condominium in Siglap. But no one was home when ST visited on Tuesday. Neighbours said they did not know anyone who fit Ho's profile living in the unit.

ST reported on Tuesday that Ho and five accomplices allegedly swindled victims from the US and all over the world out of more than US$50 million (S$72 million), based on an indictment unsealed by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York last month.

They allegedly impersonated American government officials to lure at least 12 victims to invest in a fraudulent scheme known as the "Cities Upliftment Programme (CUP)". The group told investors that the CUP was backed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Additional court papers ST obtained showed that among those cheated was an unnamed victim in Singapore, who was allegedly approached by Ho in 2015 and parked US$1 million in the scheme.

In another case, Ho, together with other accomplices, not only lured a lawyer in Hong Kong into the scam, but also duped him into acting as a money mule. The lawyer transferred US$31 million, including his own monies, to the syndicate's accounts.

Court documents also painted an intricate web of international money trails used to cover their tracks.

 

A total of US$54 million was wired to and between 15 accounts in banks in the US, Sri Lanka, Barbados and Britain.

Bogus invoices were also issued as cover for the wire transfers.

An affidavit filed last month revealed that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) posed as potential investors to uncover the fraudulent scheme.

A Singaporean investment consultant, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 50, nearly fell prey to the scam. He said a US business partner, who had met Ho in person, told him about the CUP.

"He thought to link me up, because the man (Ho) was Singaporean. So I tried to set up a meeting with Ho, but he never responded to our requests," said Mr Tan, who showed ST forged documents used by the suspects.

Indictment papers alleged that the group had promised "exponential" returns, where a US$1 million investment could yield US$150 million in less than four months.

Ho was charged last month with five counts relating to committing wire fraud and impersonating a US officer, among others.

His alleged accomplices included four Americans - Michael Jacobs, 64; Ruby Handler-Jacobs, 64; Lawrence Lester, 71; and Rachel Gendreau, 46 - and Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, 55.

All six were charged in US courts last month, though Ho and Edwards were on the run then. Edwards is still at large.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline ''CAD probing S'porean' wanted over US scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe