DPP seeks 8 years' jail for mastermind of $1.8m renovation scam

The prosecution urged a district court yesterday to sentence a 41-year-old woman who masterminded a renovation scam involving nearly $1.8 million to at least eight years' jail.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting said Husniyati Omar returned to a life of crime just one month after she was released from prison in August 2015. She had served four months' jail after admitting to cheating offences.

Following her release, she misappropriated $68,260 from her employer, home renovation firm Elegance Concept, between September and December 2015 before leaving in January 2016. After that, she cheated 89 homeowners and subcontractors of nearly $1.8 million.

Stressing that Husniyati was a persistent offender who has made no restitution, DPP Lee told District Judge Edgar Foo: "The accused cheated unsuspecting homeowners to enter into home renovation contracts which she and her husband had no intention of fulfilling.

"The accused also cheated many subcontractors to supply and deliver renovation materials and labour, even though the accused had no intention of paying them."

Defence lawyer Goh Chui Ling pleaded for her client to be given three years' jail. She said Husniyati, who has seven children between three and 19 years old, regrets her actions and is "extremely remorseful". She pleaded guilty last month to 20 cheating charges and one count of criminal breach of trust. These 21 charges involved almost $770,000. Another 126 charges for similar offences involving the remaining amount will be considered during sentencing.

In early 2016, Husniyati asked her friend Christina Wong Hoi Khay, 22, to be the sole director and shareholder of a renovation firm called Carpentry Design Works. But the firm and its bank accounts were at all times controlled by Husniyati and her husband Aszrul Yusoff, 37, the court heard.

DPP Lee said the couple promised homeowners and prospective customers that the firm would be able to complete its renovation works within specific deadlines. But Husniyati never had the intention to ensure Carpentry Design Works would honour the agreements or complete the works.

She also duped subcontractors into believing she would pay them for work. One of them made a police report on April 13 last year and she was arrested. While out on bail, Husniyati asked Mr Mohammad Khairuldin Abdullah, 32, to set up Chanteq Flooring Specialist. She continued to commit cheating offences through this renovation firm.

Husniyati will be sentenced on Sept 25. The case against Aszrul is pending.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2018, with the headline 'DPP seeks 8 years' jail for mastermind of $1.8m renovation scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe