Designer who cheated home owners jailed

An interior designer pocketed more than $90,000 in deposits paid to his company, then, after being sacked, cheated home owners out of over $43,000 by promising them renovation works which he did not fulfil.

Chua Min Sern, 39, was jailed for two years and three months on Thursday. He pleaded guilty last month to one count of criminal breach of trust and nine cheating charges. Nineteen other cheating charges were considered during sentencing. He committed these offences from 2017 until last year.

Chua was employed by HKlassic Interior Design in 2014 and his job scope included collecting deposits from customers. The court heard he was sacked on Sept 21, 2017 and its director lodged a police report four days later, stating that he failed to hand over more than $90,000 in deposits for renovation works.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Weiming said that Chua later used the cash for his personal expenses and has not made any restitution to HKlassic Interior Design.

Later that month, a home owner received a text message from Chua who claimed to be working for a firm called Reno-hub Interior, asking if he was keen on some renovation works. Chua visited the man's home on Oct 21, 2017, and went through the renovation plan. The man decided to hire him and handed over $2,000 in cash as a deposit.

"After the payment, the accused did not start the renovation for the complainant at all and refused to refund the complainant," said DPP Tan. "In fact, the accused had no intention of commencing any renovation works right from the outset."

The home owner lodged a police report three days later.

Chua also posted advertisements on online marketplace Carousell, claiming to offer home renovation services.

Using a similar method, he cheated at least six other people who decided to engage his services. He has made no restitution to them.

For criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined. For each count of cheating, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Designer who cheated home owners jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe