5 years' jail for man behind 'largest e-commerce fraud by an individual' in Singapore

SINGAPORE - A serial conman cheated 396 victims on online marketplace Carousell over 18 months, resulting in losses totalling $108,693.

The prosecution said Caine Poh Zhenlong's case involved the largest scale of e-commerce fraud committed by an individual to date in Singapore.

On Wednesday (Aug 31), Poh was sentenced to five years' jail and a fine of $17,000 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating involving more than $87,000 and five charges involving unlawful gambling activities.

Another nine charges, including one count of cheating involving some $21,000, were considered during sentencing.

Poh will spend an additional 10 weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

The court heard that Poh came across news articles in 2018 on victims who had been cheated on Carousell. He decided to commit similar offences and registered multiple Carousell accounts.

As the registration process for a Carousell account required a mobile phone number, Poh posted on multiple Facebook groups to ask if anyone needed a job.

After receiving responses, he told the jobseekers that he needed their mobile phone numbers, which he then used to register the Carousell accounts.

He also asked the jobseekers for the one-time-password that was sent to their devices to register the accounts.

Poh then told the jobseekers to wait for his response but did not get back to any of them.

To carry out his scam, Poh posted advertisements on Carousell purporting to sell various products. Most of them were tickets to attractions, particularly Universal Studios Singapore as he had noticed many people were looking to buy them on the platform.

Between Jan 1 and Dec 28, 2019, Poh duped multiple victims into believing he had items for sale, resulting in them transferring more than $76,000 to various bank accounts.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Shao Yan told the court: "As part of his deception, the accused sent some of the victims fake tickets by e-mail. He created these tickets by retrieving images of the tickets from the Internet and editing the ticket details.

"Thereafter, he sent the edited tickets to the victims and informed them that they were valid e-tickets."

After deceiving his victims, Poh instructed them to transfer money to bank accounts belonging to online casinos which he frequented.

He then gambled with the money and transferred his winnings to bank accounts belonging to his mother and late father, which he had full control of.

Using a similar method, Poh cheated more victims of over $11,000 between Jan 1 and June 14, 2020. The police received numerous reports about the offences.

Poh was caught in a surprise raid at his home on June 16, 2020.

Defence lawyer S. Balamurugan told the court on Wednesday that his client cheated his victims to fuel his gambling habit. Citing a medical report, he said Poh has a severe gambling disorder, which contributed to his offences.

Arguing against the defence's assertion, DPP Ng said: "As stated in the report, his cheating offences provided 'means to enable him to have a chance to gamble and win'. This would not qualify as a direct causal link to his cheating offences."

Poh has not made any restitution to his victims.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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