Cheat who offered to buy bar to now spend time behind bars

Sin pretended to represent a potential buyer from a company based in Hong Kong in negotiations with the owner of the bar.
Sin pretended to represent a potential buyer from a company based in Hong Kong in negotiations with the owner of the bar.

A jobless man who duped the owner of a bar into handing the premises over to him was jailed 10 months yesterday after pleading guilty to cheating and criminal breach of trust.

Sin Zhiwei, now 35, pretended to represent a potential buyer when he fooled the owner of a Tiong Bahru hotel bar and gained access to the drinking hole's daily takings.

A theft charge involving $590 worth of items, including a laptop computer, was taken into consideration during sentencing.

Sin had corresponded with the owner online but there are no details of when they got to know each other or the frequency and dates of their online interactions.

On Nov 29 last year, he turned up at the bar, located in a Tiong Bahru Road hotel.

He pretended to represent a man known as Mr Joseph Lau from Hong Kong-based property company Chinese Estates Holdings. An online check shows a company by the same name is registered in Hong Kong.

After a discussion, the owner agreed to sell his bar to the company that Sin claimed to represent for $140,000. Sin claimed that as a foreign company, the contract had to be signed between the bar owner and a local subsidiary instead.

The owner agreed and Sin duped him into signing the so-called contract on Dec 18 last year.

According to the contract, the owner was supposed to be paid three days later. Although he was not paid, he handed over the bar to Sin on Dec 22 last year.

The cheat then helped himself to cash and valuables worth $4,785.04, including two bottles of whisky worth $370.

The bar was closed for a week from Dec 24 last year. Sin continued to run it from Jan 1 until his arrest 25 days later. The owner retook possession of the bar on Jan 26.

None of the stolen cash and items has been recovered.

Separately, Sin also made off with cash totalling $1,528 when he was a part-time staff member of the front office at The Inn hotel in Temple Street in Chinatown on Dec 30, 2013.

A guest had handed over the amount as payment for two rooms and the money was supposed to be kept in a safe deposit box.

But Sin kept the cash and used it for his personal expenses before a hotel manager found out about the loss and alerted the police on Jan 6, 2014. The court heard that he made no restitution.

For cheating, Sin could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.

For criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed up to 15 years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Cheat who offered to buy bar to now spend time behind bars'. Print Edition | Subscribe