Woman allegedly linked to love scams charged with receiving ill-gotten gains of $216,000

SINGAPORE - A Malaysian woman believed to be involved in several Internet love scams was hauled to court on Tuesday (Nov 14) after allegedly receiving $216,000 in ill-gotten gains.

Fong Bee Yeok, 38, was charged with five counts each of acquiring the monies which were obtained through cheating, removing the cash out of Singapore and transporting the amount across the Causeway without authorisation.

Individuals who wish to carry more than $20,000 in cash out of Singapore have to give a "full and accurate report" to an authorised officer.

Each charge involved between $34,000 and $48,000.

On Tuesday, Fong told the court she intends to plead guilty and will not be engaging a lawyer. She was offered bail of $30,000 and will be back in court on Dec 18.

If convicted of acquiring the benefits of criminal activities, she can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000 for each charge.

Fong's crime spree had purportedly started on Sept 10 when she received $34,000 from someone named Ong Loke Boey at a Novena Square fast-food restaurant. Court documents did not reveal any details about Ong.

Fong allegedly transported the money across the Causeway into Johor at around 9.40pm that day.

She is said to have received money from Ong four more times before making similar trips to Malaysia between Sept 16 and 25.

Victims were asked to transfer money into various local bank accounts, said the police in a statement on Monday.

The police added: "Investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department revealed that the bank account holders had passed the cash to the suspect, who is believed to have carried the money out of Singapore to deliver it to the scam syndicate members."

The case comes amid a rise in Internet love scams in the first six months of 2017 over the same period last year. According to the police, there were 349 reported cases of such scams between January and June, compared with 277 in the first six months of last year.

In these scams, the con artists would befriend the victims on social media platforms before developing online relationships with them.

They would then dupe the victims into transferring money to them, claiming that this was needed for business loans or legal fees, for instance.

The police said: "To avoid falling prey to these scams, members of the public should be careful when befriending strangers online. They should also be wary when asked to send money to people whom they do not know."