832 job-seeking foreigners duped of over $600k; firm's director admits to more charges

SINGAPORE - The director of a firm who promised hundreds of foreigners jobs and then cheated them of more than $600,000 has admitted to more charges.

On Thursday (July 16), Terry Tan-Soo I-Hse pleaded guilty to 258 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act and Employment Agencies Act.

Tan-Soo, who was convicted earlier of other charges related to the scam, did not act alone.

Together with fellow Singaporean Clarence Lim Jun Yao, 32, Tan-Soo was found guilty last November of three fraudulent trading charges, following a trial.

They were involved in a ruse that saw 832 foreign job seekers duped into handing over more than $600,000 in upfront fees and other charges for non-existent jobs.

This happened between 2015 and 2016, when Tan-Soo, 42, and Lim were the directors and shareholders of their respective firms.

According to court documents, Tan-Soo headed Asia Recruit, while Lim headed Asiajobmart and UUBR International.

There were two main versions of the fraud, with the first iteration carried out from March to July 2015.

"(Asia Recruit) attracted its pool of foreign victims by advertising the availability of numerous purported job vacancies, using its status and licence as an employment agency... Hundreds of foreigners contacted (it) in hope of finding jobs," Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Tan, Kim Bumsoo and Sarah Thaker had said in their submissions earlier.

"(Asia Recruit) then invited them to one of two premises, at People's Park Complex and One Raffles Place," added the prosecutors.

There, the company conducted sham "interviews", and charged the foreigners up to $180 each as "upfront fees".

A few days later, Asia Recruit contacted those who had paid up and told them that an employer had agreed to hire then.

It invited them to its premises again and charged each job seeker up to $800 for a second set of "upfront fees" to that it would "submit a work pass application for them".

Between May and July 2015, Asia Recruit submitted to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) more than 200 applications for employment as well as S passes.

All of these applications were for purported jobs at either one of two companies - Asiajobmart or a Korean restaurant, which had never agreed to hire any of the candidates.

MOM raided Asia Recruit's premises on July 16, 2015 and told Tan-Soo and his firm to stop collecting upfront fees.

But the court heard that the two men continued with their ruse, devising a second iteration of the scam.

This time, Asiajobmart stopped acting as a purported employer and instead posed as a provider of "online job portal services".

The prosecutors said: "Each foreign job seeker chose between paying $290 or $390.

"(Asia Recruit and Asiajobmart) told the foreigners that if they paid $290, they would receive a job interview within 14 days. If they paid the higher amount, they would receive a job interview within... seven days."

The prosecutors added that Lim and Tan-Soo had secretly arranged for Lim's other company - UUBR International - to invite every candidate for a job interview.

This then allowed Asiajobmart to claim that it had fulfilled its guarantee of securing interviews for the job seekers.

The prosecutors said: "At these interviews, UUBR falsely told every foreign job seeker that it had decided to hire them... The catch was that the job seekers were required to pay UUBR upfront fees for compulsory 'training', as a condition to being hired."

UUBR charged each foreigner $180 as course reservation or administrative fees, and either $650 or $850 as "programme fees", the court heard.

In the end, none of the foreigners worked for the firm.

The prosecutors told the court that UUBR continued collecting fees from foreigners until the Commercial Affairs Department intervened in March 2016.

Tan-Soo was expected to be sentenced on Thursday for the three charges he had been convicted of when he pleaded guilty to the 258 charges.

Lim, who faces similar charges, will be dealt with at a later stage.

Tan-Soo's bail has been set at $110,000 and he will now be sentenced on Aug 12. Lim's case has also been adjourned to next month.

For each fraudulent trading charge, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and fined up to $15,000.

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