Jail for woman who cheated victim of nearly $50k after claiming she could help her find a husband

Soh Chih Hui was also ordered to pay Ms Goh Seng Mui $49,600 as compensation.
Soh Chih Hui was also ordered to pay Ms Goh Seng Mui $49,600 as compensation.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - A woman who cheated her mother's 56-year-old friend of nearly $50,000 after claiming that she could help her find a husband through religious rites was sentenced on Monday (June 7) to 15 months' jail.

Soh Chih Hui was also ordered to pay Ms Goh Seng Mui $49,600 as compensation.

Soh, who is now 23, will have to spend an additional two weeks behind bars if she is unable to pay the amount.

The Singaporean was between 17 and 18 years old when she duped Ms Goh, her mother's primary school friend, into handing her the monies over multiple occasions between April and November 2015.

After an earlier trial, District Judge Carol Ling convicted Soh of an amalgamated cheating charge in September last year.

On Monday, the judge said that Soh had caused severe harm, making the "superstitious" and "gullible" Ms Goh part with her life savings.

Judge Ling also noted that Soh had not shown genuine remorse and that "not a single cent of restitution has been made".

Before she was cheated, Ms Goh, an odd-job worker, had reconnected with Soh's mother by chance.

She also got to know Soh and later worked for the younger woman's father at his bak kut teh stall in Tampines.

During the trial, Ms Goh testified that Soh had told her she could help introduce the older woman to a man who "would become her boyfriend and later husband".

The court heard that Soh convinced Ms Goh that the 51-year-old man worked at a bank, earned $7,000 a month, and had a temple in Changi.

In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu said that the younger woman even showed Ms Goh a photo of the man on her mobile phone.

Details about the man's identity and how he was linked to the two women were not stated in court documents.

The DPP added that Ms Goh was a superstitious person who is "plainly naive and simple-minded". Soh exploited these characteristics in her ruse.

The DPP said: "The victim testified that the accused spoke to her in a high-pitched, child-like voice and appeared to her as a child deity.

"The accused also spoke to her in a low voice and appeared to her as deity 'Fu Wang'. In the capacity as the child deity or 'Fu Wang', the accused told the victim that she needed to 'borrow fate' before she could be with her prospective husband."

The court heard that to "borrow fate", Ms Goh had to hand over cash to Soh to buy cosmetics, branded shoes and clothes, as well as chant prayers, perform rituals and make offerings.

Ms Goh had testified that after running out of cash to give Soh, she pawned her jewellery on the younger woman's instructions. The court heard that Ms Goh gave Soh her insurance pay-out of over $17,000 and also borrowed money from her oldest brother.

Ms Goh finally realised she had been duped when Soh tried to get her to sell her Housing Board flat.

The DPP said that Ms Goh "woke up to her senses" in January 2016 and alerted the police.

Soh is now out on $15,000 bail and has been ordered to surrender herself at the State Courts on July 5 to begin serving her sentence.

For cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.