Ex-grassroots volunteer jailed for cheating 12 victims of $1.4m

The court heard that Reichie Chng Teck Kiam used the money largely to sustain his gambling habit.
The court heard that Reichie Chng Teck Kiam used the money largely to sustain his gambling habit.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

51-year-old, who used then adviser Ong Ye Kung's name to make ruse more believable, gets eight years in prison

To support his gambling habit, a grassroots volunteer cheated 12 victims of more than $1.4 million.

To make his ruse more believable, Reichie Chng Teck Kiam, 51, even used the name of Mr Ong Ye Kung, who is now Education Minister, in forged messages.

Yesterday, the former volunteer was sentenced to eight years' jail for committing various forgery, cheating and money-laundering offences. He had committed them between November 2012 and March last year, the court heard.

Chng, who was a volunteer at Kaki Bukit constituency between 2011 and 2015, got to know his victims mostly through grassroots activities. Mr Ong was an adviser to the constituency at the time.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vikneswaran Kumaran told the court that Chng told his victims he was raising funds for investment in a legal moneylending business, Elite Investment & Credit.

The DPP said: "The accused also claimed that Mr Ong and his wife were involved in the moneylending business and the corresponding investment scheme."

  • 30 

    Number of charges Reichie Chng Teck Kiam pleaded guilty to. The remaining charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Chng then told his victims that they would receive lucrative monthly returns of between 3 per cent and 8 per cent if they invested in the business.

In reality, neither Mr Ong nor his wife was involved in the company, and no such investment opportunity was available, said DPP Vikneswaran.

Court documents showed that through this ruse, Chng managed to persuade two victims - Mr Tan Boon Hai and Mr Chua Boon Joon - into handing over $500,000 and $158,000, respectively.

However, when Chng had difficulties repaying them, the victims became suspicious and demanded their money back.

To convince them of the legitimacy of the scheme, Chng then forged multiple WhatsApp conversations, purportedly between him and Mr Ong, and sent screenshots to the victims.

Chng also forged numerous business agreements, including one purportedly entered into with "Diana Kuek Sin Len". The agreements indicated this to be Mr Ong's wife, said the DPP. Mr Ong's wife's name is Kuik Sin Leng.

On another occasion, Chng convinced Mr Tan to lend him $250,000 by telling him that he needed the money to repay a bank loan on the same day, failing which he would be declared bankrupt.

Mr Tan borrowed the money from a friend to help Chng pay off the loan. However, the story about the loan was later revealed to be false.

Chng also deceived Mr Chua into handing over an additional $70,000, supposedly for investment in another company, Malaysia-registered Ecotrans.

Chng also engaged in money laundering by converting more than $131,000 worth of cash - largely obtained from his cheating schemes - into casino chips at Marina Bay Sands.

The fraudulent schemes came to light when Mr Ong lodged a police report in March last year after being alerted by one of the victims.

Chng was charged with more than 100 offences last September.

Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to 30 charges. The remaining charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Before handing out his sen-tence, District Judge Ng Peng Hong berated Chng for having "exploited the position of a grassroots volunteer".

In a plea for leniency, Chng's defence lawyer T.M. Sinnadurai said that his client had been cooperative with the authorities and was remorseful.

For cheating, Chng could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge. For each count of forgery for the purpose 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 May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-grassroots volunteer jailed for cheating 12 victims of $1.4m'. Print Edition | Subscribe