American conman jailed for a year for money-laundering offences in Singapore

SINGAPORE - An American conman, who scammed a singer-songwriter behind Faith Hill's hit "Breathe" of US$600,000 (S$788,000), was jailed for a year in a Singapore district court on Monday (April 23) in connection with money laundering offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo noted that the case involving David John Plate, 53, marked the first time that an overseas scammer was convicted of such offences here.

The court heard that in July 2014, Plate tricked Ms Mary Holladay Lamar, 50, a fellow American and singer-songwriter based in Britain, into believing that US$600,000 which she gave to him would be loaned to a company, Globomass Limited. She was promised repayment with interest of at least 30 per cent. Instead, Ms Lamar ended up on the brink of bankruptcy.

In an exclusive e-mail interview with The Straits Times, Ms Lamar said that she was first introduced to Plate by a long-time friend with whom she had not been in touch for four years.

She said the ordeal nearly destroyed her.

She told ST: "It destroyed my business, my relationship with my family. When (the scammers) weren't sending the interest payments, my mother sold her only property and had only $20,000 left."

On April 9, Plate admitted in court to one count each of abetting an alleged accomplice, who was named in court as Singapore permanent resident Sandrasegaran Vasimuthu, 56, to receive US$45,000 and to transfer US$10,000 from this amount to another man. Four other similar money laundering charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

After making off with Ms Lamar's money, Plate sent an e-mail on July 22, 2014 to someone named Andrew Philpott from a British firm, Captive Risk, saying that the money would be going into the company's bank account.

Plate instructed Mr Philpott to "turn this around straight away", providing him with details of three bank accounts for the transfer of funds.

One of them belonged to Mr Sandrasegaran's Singapore-registered company, Aglobal Management. Captive Risk transferred US$45,000 to Aglobal's bank account three days later.

Later on the same day, Plate e-mailed Mr Sandrasegaran, asking him to transfer US$10,000 to a Bank of America account belonging to one Todd Peterson.

DPP Chong Yonghui had earlier told the court: "The said e-mail also contained the bank account details of two other persons for the accomplice to transfer monies. In total, the accomplice was instructed to transfer monies to five bank accounts including that of the accused."

Ms Lamar flew to Singapore on June 6, 2015 and made a police report. Plate was arrested when he arrived here on a social visit pass on Feb 23 last year.

On Monday, DPP Khoo urged District Judge John Ng to jail Plate for a year, stressing that he had made no restitution.

Plate's lawyer, Mr Amogh Chakravarti, who was assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, pleaded for his client to be given nine months' jail, telling the court that his client was unable to make restitution "owing to his present financial situation."

Ms Lamar told ST that she was ruined financially at an age when she should be retiring.

She said: "(Plate) is the man who stole Breathe. I wrote something beautiful. My music changed peoples' lives, but he has stripped the feeling of that from me."

Mr Sandrasegaran has yet to be charged.