Woman admits to cheating 70-year-old man but says amount was $30,000, not $400,000

SINGAPORE - Madam Tan Hwee Ngo, 65, who was arrested for allegedly cheating a 70-year-old man of his life savings, has admitted to swindling him to settle her gambling debts.

But the dishwasher, who is now out on police bail, claimed that she took $30,000 from him, not $400,000 as Mr Tan Soy Kiang has claimed. She came up with a scheme to cheat Mr Tan because she needed to settle gambling debts that amounted to more than $10,000, she told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao on Monday.

The story of how Mr Tan, who holds two jobs to pay Madam Tan and another woman, Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 69, first came to light in The New Paper on Sunday. Madam Tan had allegedly told Mr Tan that he needed to pay up because he owed the government money. Every month for 15 years, the two women would collect the money he earns from being a cleaner and a pump attendant. The scheme was discovered only in 2013 by Mr Tan's niece Pamela Lim, 39.

Madam Tan told Wanbao that out of greed, she continued taking the money even after her debts were settled. She, however, denied telling Mr Tan that he owed a debt. She claimed she said it was a government investment. She also said she has been repaying him $500 every month for a year.

Madam Boo, however, told Wanbao that she was also a victim. Madam Boo, who would collect the money and pass it to Madam Tan, claimed that the latter had cheated her of $40,000. She is assisting the police in their investigations. She has been friends with Mr Tan for more than 50 years, and introduced him to Madam Tan.

After Mr Tan's story came out in the media, several people have dropped by at the petrol station where he works to offer help and encouragement. A crowdfunding effort on Indiegogo started by Mr Dan Chen, who works at an international school, has raised $46,000 for him. Mr Chen said that the money will go towards buying Mr Tan vouchers and items, and also giving him cash.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg