Ex-housing agent gets 5 years and 3 mths for CBT of $559,200

SINGAPORE - A former housing agent who was convicted of misappropriating more than $500,000 was sentenced to five years and three months in prison on Wednesday.

Terence Yan Khek Yong, 30, was found guilty on Tuesday after a 15-day trial of criminal breach of trust involving five cheques entrusted to him by Mr Chan Kee Kok, who was 89 in 2010 and has since died. He was also convicted of instigating Mr Chan's Indonesian maid Sarina to lie to the police, saying that Mr Chan had told Yan to spend a cheque for $200,000.

Yan is appealing and his bail of $100,000 was increased by another $30,000.

Mr Chan had engaged Yan of HSR International Realtors as an agent to sell his Modena apartment in Simei and buy a smaller one for him and his intellectually-impaired daughter to live in.

Mr Chan's Simei property was sold for $1.05 million. Yan managed to get a replacement unit at Eastpoint Green, also in Simei, for Mr Chan, for $740,000.

Mr Chan, who had poor eyesight, had trusted Yan to handle his sale and purchase transactions. He also allowed Yan to write out cheques for him. He died in February last year.

The prosecution's case was that the cheques of between $59,200 and $150,000 were issued to Yan by Mr Chan for buying the replacement property. Yan's defence was that they were gifts or rewards to him for the extra service that he had given Mr Chan, on top of his commission.

When the police were investigating, Yan had instigated Sarina to corroborate his defence.

In his judgment, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt found that the five cheques were not gifts nor rewards but entrusted to Yan for the purchase of the replacement property.

"I find that the accused did next to nothing to warrant a reward or gift of more than half a million dollars from Mr Chan. In my view, the accused was already grossly overpaid when he shamelessly asked for a 7 per cent commission from Mr Chan for his unremarkable services as a housing agent. He had clearly taken advantage of an elderly client who trusted him,he said.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Leong Wing Tuck and Eunice Lim sought a stiff sentence, saying there was a need to deter unscrupulous housing agents or anyone who would work to ingratiate themselves to the victims and exploit their vulnerabilities. They argued that Yan's conduct was "unconscionable at many levels".