Casanova convicted of duping 8 women of over $200,000

Within a month of his release from prison, a serial cheat conned eight women and snagged $201,000 over 16 months.

Adrian Choo Zhiwei, 35, specifically targeted women, befriending them online and romancing some while spinning stories of how he was a foreign exchange dealer or investment consultant.

In truth, Choo had done "waitering and bussing jobs" and lived with his parents and a daughter who was in Primary One, said District Judge Jasvender Kaur.

Noting this was his fourth conviction for property offences in a decade, the judge convicted and sentenced Choo to six years of corrective training.

"A longer term of incarceration than the likely term of regular imprisonment was called for to specifically deter the accused," she said in judgment grounds last week.

Choo, who faced 23 charges of cheating, pleaded guilty to eight. The others were taken into consideration for sentencing.

He typically befriended the victims through social media before duping them. He had used the same tactics in 2008 when he was convicted of four counts of cheating and jailed for 22 months.

Back then, Choo lured three female victims on MSN and Friendster websites, before deceiving them into investing monies with promises of lucrative returns that were false. He bagged $76,000 and returned only $1,500.

In the current case, the prosecution proceeded with eight charges that involved three victims who had lost $85,000.

One victim, who Choo befriended in January last year, believed him when he looked her up, claiming he had met her at a party five years earlier.

She was actively partying then. They eventually entered into a relationship, which led her to part with some $26,000 in bank loans and savings for him to invest.

This happened within eight weeks of her first meeting Choo, where he posed as an investor.

Two months later, he swooped in on the second victim and had a relationship with her as well.

Choo lied to her that he was a foreign exchange investor and his job was on the line if the $15,000 investment he sought from her did not go through.

He claimed his own account was frozen and hoodwinked her twice, taking $23,000 altogether.

The third victim took out $26,000 in bank loans for his get-rich-quick investment offers when he posed as an investment consultant in 2016.

Judge Kaur noted Choo had three non-property related antecedents between 2004 and 2008 that drew varying jail terms.

This included six weeks' jail for breaching a personal protection order under the Women's Charter in June 2008.

The corrective training report presented to the judge to determine his suitability for the regime stated Choo "appeared to present with a willingness to resort to criminal means for his own benefit" and that he "had difficulties staying crime-free in the community as evident from his re-offending within two years of his release, each time he was released since 2008".

Choo, who had used the $201,200 he obtained in the scams for gambling and paying off debts, paid only $7,300 in restitution.

Judge Kaur noted he started to re-offend "almost immediately" after his jail release in January 2016 and his offending "escalated" this time, which made it appropriate to sentence him to six years' corrective training.

Choo is appealing the sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline 'Casanova convicted of duping 8 women of over $200,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe