Ex-sports betting trader who tweaked football odds jailed

Ricky Widjaja (above) admitted to 13 of 52 counts of scheming with Thomas Tong Heng Huat to use a computer to access a program called Margin Maker 2 with the intention to cheat Singapore Pools.
Ricky Widjaja (above) admitted to 13 of 52 counts of scheming with Thomas Tong Heng Huat to use a computer to access a program called Margin Maker 2 with the intention to cheat Singapore Pools.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

He gets 4 years over scheme to cheat Singapore Pools of some $200,000

A former sports betting trader who cheated Singapore Pools of about $200,000 by setting up a scheme with a colleague to manipulate football odds was jailed for four years yesterday.

Ricky Widjaja, 26, admitted to 13 of 52 counts of scheming with Thomas Tong Heng Huat, 32, to use a computer to access a program called Margin Maker 2 (MM2), with the intention to cheat Singapore Pools. District Judge Toh Yung Cheong denied bail for the permanent resident, pending his appeal against the sentence.

The court heard that some time in August 2011, the pair decided to cheat their employer by using MM2 to manipulate the odds for the "total goals: over/under" category of bets for various league and international football matches.

The plan entailed either man working on-shift at the trading room in Singapore Pools' headquarters. The person off-shift would typically place a bet that his conspirator would accept before lowering the odds minutes later.

The duo would coordinate their actions by sending messages to each other, thus creating a "sure win" situation for themselves and a corresponding "sure lose" situation for Singapore Pools. The winning tickets would be redeemed at various Singapore Pools outlets.

Their scam went undetected for a substantial number of matches over a period of almost five months. Investigations showed that they employed this tactic for 52 football matches between August 2011 and January 2012.

The scheme was unravelled only after Singapore Pools discovered on Jan 20, 2012 that Widjaja had breached staff regulations by placing bets at an outlet. Their bets ranged between $12,000 and $38,000, with winnings of up to $44,000. After Widjaja was suspended, he deleted text messages and a Microsoft Excel sheet containing details of the offences.

Widjaja's lawyer Melanie Ho made an impassioned plea for a pre-sentence report to be called.

She said that her client had made full restitution not only for the amount he took but also for Thong's share. Thong is now behind bars for five years and four months for similar offences.

Judge Toh declined to call for a pre-sentence report, given the very serious nature of the offences.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-sports betting trader who tweaked football odds jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe