Cleaner jailed 11 months for misappropriating $109k

A man was jailed for 11 months for misappropriating $109,160 that was transferred to his account by someone he befriended on the Internet.
A man was jailed for 11 months for misappropriating $109,160 that was transferred to his account by someone he befriended on the Internet.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A man was jailed for 11 months on Thursday for misappropriating $109,160 that was transferred to his account by someone he befriended on the Internet.

Cleaner Lim Sim Hong, alias Lim Fu-Ming, 56, admitted to criminal breach of trust of the amount on Dec 7, 2012. Two other charges were taken into consideration.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat told the court that Lim befriended a person called Laura Smith online sometime in June 2012.

Subsequently, Laura told him that her company intended to set up an art gallery in Singapore, and needed his bank account to transfer a sum of money to buy property space here.

Lim agreed, as he thought he would be able to work with Laura in the art gallery once it was set up.

A sum of $109,160 was transferred to his OCBC Bank account. When Laura later told him to transfer the sum to another bank account in Hong Kong, he refused despite repeated requests.

He told her that if she was not coming to Singapore, he would use the money for his own investments. He also told her that her company could sue him.

When he was called up by the Commercial Affairs Department on Feb 1, 2013, he lied that he had spent the entire sum. He even showed the investigating officer an Excel spreadsheet setting out how the $109,160 had been used.

CAD subsequently raided his home and seized $85,500.

Investigation also showed that Laura had obtained the money through a bank fraud in the United States and the funds were fraudulently transferred from a bank account with Charles Schwab & Co to Lim.

Lim made restitution of $10,210 and $4,000. The total amount recovered to date is $99,710.

Lim's lawyer Alice Tan Chor Hoon, a Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (Clas) Fellow, said in her mitigation plea that Lim became infatuated with Laura, and he later perceived that love soon blossomed between them.

She said Lim could not wait to meet Laura in person as she had planned, but she did not come. He had thought that their relationship would work out.

He became increasingly furious and began to doubt her intentions. He spent a total of $13,450 on himself and his family members.

Lim could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for criminal breach of trust.