Jobless man jailed for e-shopping scams carried out while on bail

Dwight Soriano cheated 34 victims of about $30,000 through online scams. He was jailed 17 months after he admitted to 19 of 70 cheating charges.
Dwight Soriano cheated 34 victims of about $30,000 through online scams. He was jailed 17 months after he admitted to 19 of 70 cheating charges.

An unemployed man cheated 34 victims of about $30,000 through online shopping scams.

Dwight Soriano would post items such as watches and Gundam robot models for sale on websites like Carousell and Gumtree, and collect money when he actually did not have the items.

The 30-year-old Singaporean was jailed 17 months on Thursday after he admitted to 19 of 70 cheating charges. The total amount involved in all the charges is $39,386. He has made restitution of $6,303.

He carried out the online scams while he was out on police bail for another cheating case.

He had tricked his former girlfriend, Ms Wong Yee Poh, into believing that he had been kidnapped abroad and needed her to transfer money to his bank account for his release.

He duped her into transferring a total of $10,100, including $90 to buy bus tickets in Malaysia, to his account.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Charis Low said Soriano went to Thailand in May 2013. In August that year, he pretended to be a kidnapper and messaged Ms Wong to say that Soriano had been kidnapped. He demanded ransom money.

Each time she transferred the amount demanded to his POSB account, Soriano, posing as the kidnapper, would send text messages saying Soriano had been released but recaptured. He would then - as the kidnapper - send her messages demanding further payments for his release.

Ms Wong lodged a police report on Dec 3 that year that she had transferred money to Soriano as he had purportedly been kidnapped.

Back in Singapore, he devised a scam to cheat people into transferring money to his bank accounts.

From August last year to March this year, he posted electronic advertisements claiming to have various items, such as Gundam figurines and G-Shock watches, for sale.

When his OCBC Bank account was frozen, he used eight bank accounts belonging to seven friends to receive payments.

He told them his own account had been frozen and he needed to receive his salary or money from other friends.

Pressing for a stiff sentence, DPP Low said there is pressing public interest to deter would-be criminals from using the Internet as a cheap and convenient platform to draw in a large number of victims.

"There has been a recent sharp increase in cheating cases involving e-commerce," she said.

For the first half of this year, they were up by 62 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Soriano could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge.

Elena Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Jobless man jailed for e-shopping scams carried out while on bail'. Print Edition | Subscribe