Singapore fugitive who posed as lawyer in US found guilty

Ng Chong Lin, 44, was found guilty for offences relating to his departure from Singapore.
Ng Chong Lin, 44, was found guilty for offences relating to his departure from Singapore. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

Sentenced to jail in 2003 for forgery, he used bogus identity to get passport, leave S'pore

After fleeing Singapore two days before his appeal against a jail term for forgery in 2003, a 31-year-old man settled in the United States and practised law for seven years using a bogus name.

The US authorities caught out Ng Chong Lin in 2010, and he was jailed for 48 months for, among other things, aggravated identity theft in impersonating an attorney.

His fingerprints, which were sent to Singapore in 2013, revealed his true identity, and he was deported in May last year.

Yesterday, Ng, now 44, was found guilty for offences relating to his departure.

He had represented himself in a three-day trial last month on two charges - applying for a passport in June 2003 under the name of Wee Pui Kee, and then producing the misleading document which bore his photo, but another person's name, to an immigration officer at Changi Airport.

 

District Judge Lee Poh Choo, in her brief grounds of decision yesterday, said Ng had blatantly lied during his trial and changed his story when confronted with evidence.

"I find the accused's account to be a diverting tale suitable for social entertainment," said the judge. "His story was fraught with inconsistencies and devoid of logic. The accused was not credible at all. He was an inveterate liar."

During his trial, Ng said he remained in the US because he was stranded with a wrong passport.

He claimed that throughout the various stages of his departure - when he applied for the passport, collected it, bought his plane ticket, during check-in and going through immigration at the airport and boarding the plane - he did not notice the name and particulars on the passport were not his.

He said he realised the error only after he arrived in the US and was filling in the immigration form.

He said that it was in the course of his legal work, under the name of Daveng Wee, that he realised the US authorities could help him return to Singapore.

He contacted them and reported to them for voluntary repatriation last May, he said.

But the judge said that since Ng's passport, valid for six more years, was being held by the police back in 2003, he must have known that he would not be issued with another one.

She also noted that one of Ng's bail conditions was that he was not to leave Singapore.

"(Ng) said he was stranded in the United States for 12 years, during which it never crossed his mind to seek assistance from the Singapore Embassy. During this period, he attended courses, married and earned a good income," she said.

She added: "Clearly, he had no intention to return to Singapore."

Ng yesterday also pleaded guilty to a third charge of leaving the country as a bankrupt. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Between 2006 and 2009, Ng practised immigration law in New York using the name and registration of a real attorney to file documents to federal authorities on behalf of individuals in immigration matters.

He also claimed to have attended schools in New York when he applied for temporary residence in the US in 2007.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fugitive who posed as lawyer in US found guilty'. Print Edition | Subscribe