Jailed 11 months for pocketing over $100k

Some six months after befriending a person with the moniker, "Laura Smith", on the Internet, Lim Sim Hong allowed her to transfer $109,160 to his bank account.

Laura told the 56-year-old cleaner that she intended to set up an art gallery in Singapore, and the funds were for buying property space to set up the gallery.

After the money was transferred to his OCBC Bank account in December 2012, Laura subsequently told Lim to move the money to another bank account in Hong Kong.

Despite several requests from Laura, Lim refused. He told Laura that if she was not coming to Singapore, he would use the money for his own investments, and added that her company could sue him.

When Lim was called up for investigation on Feb 1, 2013, he told the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) that he had spent the entire $109,160, and even produced an Excel spreadsheet setting out how the money had been used.

On the way to his home, however, Lim admitted that the spreadsheet was false, and he was still holding on to $85,500.

He also told CAD that he wanted to invest the remaining sum in a business in Thailand.

The CAD raided his house that afternoon and seized the $85,500.

Investigations subsequently revealed that Laura had obtained the money through bank fraud in the US, and that the money was fraudulently transferred from a bank account with Charles Schwab & Co.

Yesterday, Lim, alias Lim Fu-Ming, was jailed 11 months for criminal breach of trust.

Two other charges - one each for using the proceeds of $13,450 to pay for his personal expenses, and for giving false information to a public servant - were considered during his sentencing.

His lawyer from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, Ms Alice Tan Chor Hoon, said in her mitigation plea that Lim was infatuated with Laura, and had looked forward to her visit in December 2012.

When that did not happen, he was devastated. He soon grew increasingly furious, and began to doubt her intentions.

Lim could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined.

Elena Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Jailed 11 months for pocketing over $100k'. Print Edition | Subscribe