Woman jailed for money mule offences

SINGAPORE - A sales executive who acted as a money mule for a man she met online was jailed for 10 months on Thursday.

Yee Kee Hong, 49, who faced five charges, admitted to receiving more than $175,000 in her POSB account in Oct 2013, even though she had reason to believe the money was stolen.

Acting on the man's instructions, she had withdrawn and handed some $170,000 to a woman named Amanda.

For her help, Yee received about $6,000, which she spent. No restitution has been made.

The court heard she had done it to help someone called "Andrew Johnson", whom she met two months earlier on badoo.com, a social networking website. The two never met in person.

After they had begun an online relationship, the man sought Yee's help to retrieve an inheritance he had been left by his late father in Malaysia, but said she would first need to pay a $5,000 registration fee. Yee said no.

The man later said he was in Malaysia and that a friend would provide him with the money needed to claim his inheritance. He said he needed Yee's help to receive it.

Yee was sceptical about his claims but eventually relented and handed over her bank account details. She received about $57,000 in her account on Oct 1, 2013.

Two days later, he asked Yee to receive another $118,000 and offered her $2,000 for her trouble. Yee felt uncomfortable with the request but agreed to help him. She asked to be paid $5,000 instead, on account of the risk involved.

Defence counsel Terence Tay said his client had three school-going children and aged in-laws to look after, and was on bad terms with her husband. This led her to pursue the online relationship with the man, who called her "dear" and gave her comfort, the lawyer said. She needed money to look after her children and invest in her business.

Yee pleaded guilty to two of five charges, with the rest taken into consideration.

She could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined for dishonestly receiving stolen property.

For transferring property that directly represents a person's benefits from criminal conduct, the maximum penalty is a $500,000 fine and 10 years' jail.

pohian@sph.com.sg