Recalcitrant 75-year-old scammer jailed for cheating friend of almost $650,000

SINGAPORE - An elderly woman was first convicted of cheating in 1981 and was last sentenced for similar crimes in November 2003.

Despite all this, Lim Siew Har, now 75, continued with her criminal ways and was sentenced to jail for four years and nine months on Wednesday (Oct 11) after cheating a friend, housewife Leow Boon Tee of $646,900.

She committed the offences between January and October 2011.

On July 4, District Judge Lorraine Ho convicted Lim of 12 counts of cheating, following a 14-day trial.

Before handing out the sentence, the judge said: "I must say that it gives me a heavy heart to sentence someone to a term of imprisonment at the age of 75 when she could be spending her twilight years more fruitfully with her family members. Unfortunately, the accused brought this upon herself, having not learnt from her past string of antecedents."

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez said that Madam Leow, 69, had trusted Lim, who was her younger brother's long-term partner.

The two women often cooked together and Lim had even taught Madam Leow how to prepare Peranakan dishes.

During one of the cooking sessions, Lim lied to Madam Leow, claiming that one of her cousins had asked her to find people interested in operating a Singapore Pools outlet.

Madam Leow rejected the offer at first as she was not familiar with betting-related matters.

However, Lim kept persuading her to take up the offer, stating that she had operated Singapore Pools outlets and that "it was very easy to do".

She also told Madam Leow that she could help her. Convinced, the victim decided to try operating them.

DPP Fernandez said: "In 2011, Singapore Pools neither invited applications from members of the public, nor engaged persons to source for outlets and process applications for members of the public."

Lim later deceived Madam Leow into believing that she needed to pay her various amounts of money to operate six 4D outlets with Singapore Pools.

The monies were supposed to have been used for items such as deposits, legal fees, stationery costs, licence transfer fees, security bonds and administrative fees for operating the outlets at places such as Bedok and Clementi.

According to court documents, Lim cheated Madam Leow of between $4,000 and $120,000 on each occasion.

Lim admitted her offences to Madam Leow only in March 2012 after her victim confronted her.

DPP Fernandez said: "The loss to the victim was that of her retirement fund. She recounted having lost everything, and her safe deposit box was empty.  The accused acted out of pure self-interest and greed, driven by the prospect of financial gain. She wanted quick money, knowing that she was an undischarged bankrupt, and unemployed. In fact, she admitted to having cheated the victim for the purpose of paying off debts, and using them for gambling."

Lim has made no restitution, the court heard.

On Wednesday, Judge Ho said that this case could serve as a "cautionary note".

She added: "Being the licensee of a Singapore Pools outlet is akin to having the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs, where returns are most certainly guaranteed. One should never throw caution to the wind and let one's guard down in exchange for a windfall."

Lim intends to appeal against the judge's decisions and was offered bail of $70,000.

For each count of cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.