Con man jailed seven years for duping 100 people out of $1m in permit scams

SINGAPORE - A serial con man who duped more than 100 victims, mostly foreign workers, out of almost $1 million over an 11 year period was sentenced to seven years' jail and given a $22,000 fine on Thursday.

Lai Chun Hoe, 45, mostly offered to help the victims, their friends or their relatives to apply for work permits, and they paid him for bogus employment-related services.

He also forged documents and passed them off as in-principle approvals issued by the Manpower Ministry's Work Pass Division.

Lai pleaded guilty to 25 out of a total of 214 offences committed between 2005 and last year.

The remaining charges were taken into consideration.

These offences comprised cheating, and forgery to cheat, and his victims also included firms.

Lai's scam also extended to permits for countries such as Australia and Canada. He also offered a service to help foreigners apply for Singapore permanent residency.

On one occasion, he cheated a firm's marketing manager and took $107,500 to help apply for work permits for 19 Chinese nationals.

He posed as a lawyer on another occasion and conned a cashier of $2,300 by telling her he would represent her in her divorce proceedings.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheryl Lim told the court that Lai has not made any restitution to his victims.

He also remained at large for a long period, even after multiple police reports had been lodged against him.

During that time, he continued to cheat more victims.

Ms Lim called for corrective training to be imposed on Lai.

But defence lawyer John Abraham told the court that a pre-sentencing report on Lai's suitability for corrective training - a tough regime for repeat offenders without earlier release for good behaviour - showed that he had a low to moderate risk of reoffending.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt sentenced Lai to imprisonment without corrective training.

Lai was also convicted of two offences related to carrying out the business of an employment agency without a licence in 2012, and employing a Chinese national in 2009 without a valid work pass.

For each count of cheating his victims into handing over their money, Lai could have be jailed for up to 10 years, and fined.

The maximum penalty for forgery to cheat is seven years' jail and a fine.