Jail sought for woman who kept $50k in love scam

An 18-month mandatory treatment order has also been recommended for Christina Cheong Yoke Lin, who was found to be suffering from a major depressive disorder at the time of her offence.
An 18-month mandatory treatment order has also been recommended for Christina Cheong Yoke Lin, who was found to be suffering from a major depressive disorder at the time of her offence.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The prosecution has pressed for a three-month jail term for a woman who allowed a love scammer to use her bank account and later decided to keep $50,000 of the ill-gotten gains for herself.

This, despite the fact that an 18-month mandatory treatment order (MTO) has been recommended for part-time English teacher Christina Cheong Yoke Lin, 63, who was found to be suffering from a major depressive disorder when she committed the offence.

Those given an MTO have to undergo treatment for their mental conditions in lieu of jail time.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Wing Tuck told District Judge Ng Peng Hong that according to a report from the Institute of Mental Health on Dec 19 last year, Cheong's disorder was of a "mild severity". The DPP also said Cheong had "played along" with the love scammer.

Defence lawyer Aaron Lee, who urged the court to sentence his client to an MTO, said his client was suicidal.

He told Judge Ng that Cheong "didn't go looking for fraud" but was "looking for love" instead. Mr Lee also stressed that Cheong had made full restitution.

Cheong pleaded guilty in May to dishonestly misappropriating the cash.

 
 

The Singaporean met a man known only as Collins through online dating platform Badoo in early August 2017. She told him that she was in debt and he then asked if she would allow his boss' associates to make use of her bank accounts.

DPP Ng Jun Chong told the court in May: "Collins explained that the accused could take $500 out of each transaction and bring the rest of the money to Johor Baru, Malaysia.

"After asking why the money could not be paid directly into his boss' account, and if she would get into trouble for carrying 'lots of money', the accused agreed to 'try out' the arrangement."

The court heard that a 54-year-old victim of a love scam transferred $50,030 to Cheong's bank account on Aug 17, 2017. Collins then told Cheong to pass $50,000 to one of his boss' associates, but she decided to keep the money.

On Aug 21, 2017, Cheong transferred $31,000 to a Malaysian bank account as she wanted to help another man with whom she was in love. However, the man, known only as Mark Anthony, was also a scammer who told her he was purportedly detained by the Malaysian authorities.

Cheong was caught after the Singaporean woman linked to Collins' love scam alerted the police on Sept 22 that year.

Court documents did not state the outcome of the case involving Collins. Cheong is now out on bail of $25,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Aug 22.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2019, with the headline 'Jail sought for woman who kept $50k in love scam'. Subscribe