SINGAPORE - A man was sentenced to two years' jail on Monday (April 11) for conning a woman into handing over cash and jewellery totalling almost $20,000 over three years.
Kumar Rajamanickam had claimed that he could perform rituals or offer prayers on the woman's behalf, or undo occult spells and malignant black magic curses.
The 44-year-old was convicted of 10 counts of cheating Madam Pramela Sukumaran, 40, in September 2013, with 35 other similar charges taken into consideration.
When the court gave him time to pay back the co-ordinator programme executive, he jumped bail and remained a fugitive until his arrest in February 2016 when he sought medical treatment in a hospital.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li had sought at least 24 months' jail, citing Kumar's criminal record for cheating and criminal breach of trust; the $19,941 involved; abuse of the victim's trust; and his absconding for a significant time after conviction.
The court heard that between December 2008 and October 2011, Kumar, having gained the trust of the victim and her mother, would conduct "rituals'' at Madam Pramela's home. He would claim that various jewellery items were "evil'', and he had to take them away to be "cleansed''.
Kumar also directed her to transfer money to him to fund overseas prayers for the well-being of her family.
These rituals would purportedly involve the sacrifice of "black sheep'' and "black chickens'', but none of these acts actually took place.
It all began in October 2008 when Madam Pramela got to know Kumar through her mother, who had told her that he could perform prayers and cure people of their ailments.
Two months later, she deposited $500 into Kumar's bank account to pay for prayers he was going to conduct in Indonesia. In total, she gave him money at least 40 times. The sums ranged from $50 to $750.
Kumar, the court heard, created elaborate ruses to keep her paying him. Once he conned her into giving him $750 to conduct prayers to counteract the black magic cast on her mother, which was affecting the family.
He pawned the jewellery given to him by Madam Pramela in Woodlands and Yishun. These items were subsequently auctioned off.
She reported him to the police in November 2011.
In his brief grounds on Monday (April 11), District Judge Marvin Bay said the court found this case to be a "truly egregious abuse of trust''.
He said Kumar had, over three years, cynically betrayed and exploited the trust on no fewer than 45 occasions, relentlessly relieving Madam Pramela of her money and valuables that ranged from $100 to $7,800.
"Kumar had exploited the unquestioning trust of his victim, putting her in terror of supernatural consequences if she did not do his bidding, and even turned her friends and relatives against her. His offence is aggravated by his duplicity before this Court in his absconding upon a pretext of trying to make restitution," he said.
Kumar could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge. His sentence was backdated to Feb 4.