Taiwanese man jailed six months for cheating other Taiwanese at Changi Airport

SINGAPORE - A Taiwanese man who came to Singapore to gamble took advantage of his compatriots' sympathy and cheated four victims of more than $2,000.

Chou Wen-Liang, 48, approached Taiwanese visitors at Changi Airport, lied to them that his personal belongings had been stolen, and asked them for cash to return home between April and May this year.

He was sentenced to six months' jail on Friday for cheating.

Chou approached his first victim, Mr Hsu Kai Ping, at the arrival hall of Terminal 1 on April 29. Speaking in Mandarin, Chou said his luggage, travel documents and sling bag containing all his money had been stolen by three African-American foreigners and that the airport police were unable to trace them.

He added that he needed $400 to obtain a new set of travel documents and another $400 to buy new airplane tickets to return to Taiwan.

Recognising Chou's Taiwanese accent, Mr Hsu withdrew S$850 from a nearby ATM and handed it to Chou, believing that Chou's wife in Taiwan would transfer the borrowed sum back to him. Chou also gave his victim what was supposedly his Taiwanese phone number.

Mr Hsu later realised he had been cheated when he did not receive any transfer of funds to his bank account and could not reach Chou on his phone.

Using the same modus operandi, Chou went on to deceive three more victims at Changi Airport, including Taiwanese actor Chris Lee, who has acted in Taiwanese TV series such as Second Life.

The court heard that Chou then gambled away the $2,050 he had obtained from them.

On May 5, Chou's first victim, Mr Hsu, returned to Terminal 1 in Changi Airport intending to lodge a report. There, he spotted Chou in the arrival hall approaching two travellers, who ignored him.

Mr Hsu alerted a airport customer service officer, who in turn called the airport police.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting said Chou's actions were premeditated and even included fake phone calls to his wife. She added that he targeted Taiwanese travellers at the airport and his actions, which made the news in Taiwan, had "tarnished Singapore's reputation as a safe holiday destination".

For cheating, Chou could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

andreang@sph.com.sg