Love scam victim who misappropriated over $42k from employer jailed 16 months

SINGAPORE - A customer support officer became smitten with a man she met online after he spoke about how he wanted to meet and marry her.

When she found out 'Sean' was supposedly facing financial difficulties, 44-year-old Loke Pui Ling remitted money to Nigeria to help him - after misappropriating more than $42,000 from her employer.

The Singapore permanent resident, who deposited the money to several different accounts, was jailed for 16 months on Monday (Jan 29) after pleading guilty to one count each of criminal breach of trust and acquiring benefits of criminal conduct.

The mother of two, who is married to another man, has since lost her job as a customer support specialist for a company that deals with sleep diagnostics.

Defence counsel Ashwin Ganapathy told the court that his client was in a loveless marriage and her husband, who was having an affair, was rarely at home.

In early 2015, she was befriended on a dating website by Sean who claimed to be from the United States.

Mr Ashwin said: "Our client (said) that Sean was nice and was always talking about wanting to meet and marry her."

Sean later told Loke that he had been transferred to Nigeria to work. He also claimed that he had been robbed and had to be hospitalised due to malaria.

"Our client genuinely was worried for Sean. As she cared for him, our client made the foolish decision to misappropriate the monies," said Mr Ashwin.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li told the court that while working for the sleep diagnostics company, Loke collected $42,292 in cash proceeds from its customers between July 14, 2015 and May 20, 2016. She then misappropriated the money instead of handing it over to the firm.

Her offence came to light after the company director discovered discrepancies in the payments made by some of the customers Loke had dealt with.

The director confronted her before alerting the police on May 27, 2016. None of the money has been recovered and Loke, who is now unemployed, has made no restitution.

Separately, in early 2016, Loke got to know another man known only as Jason who asked for her help to receive money for "work purposes".

She agreed to help him and acquired $62,000 in her bank account on Sept 10 that year.

Jason instructed her to withdraw $60,000 which she then passed to a third party in Singapore.

Jason later told Loke to remit $1,589 to a Nigerian bank account and deposit $350 to a local one. The court heard that the $62,000 turned out to be proceeds of criminal conduct.

It was part of a larger $71,000 which another woman had transferred from a bank account after receiving a fraudulent e-mail to do so.

DPP Li said that was not the first time that Loke received a large sum of suspicious funds. She had been given a stern warning for doing so in September 2014.

For criminal breach of trust, Loke could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.