Joseph Schooling's former spokesman jailed 18 months for cheating victims of over $83k

Mohamed Hafidz Ja'afar was the former spokesman for Olympic champion Joseph Schooling (centre).
Mohamed Hafidz Ja'afar was the former spokesman for Olympic champion Joseph Schooling (centre).PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG, ALVIN TOH

SINGAPORE - A former sports agent who was Olympic champion Joseph Schooling's spokesman was jailed 18 months on Wednesday (Oct 20) for cheating his friends into paying him for tickets to a football match and U2 concerts here.

Mohamed Hafidz Ja'afar, 38, also cheated a former client, footballer Illyas Lee, of more than $17,500 by tricking him into buying 52 pairs of shoes, but he delivered only three pairs.

Appearing before a district court, Mohamed Hafidz, who also formerly managed Schooling's swim school, pleaded guilty to eight charges of cheating. Nine other similar charges were taken into account for his sentencing.

He was acquitted of four cheating charges he had earlier been accused of.

For the 17 charges Mohamed Hafidz admitted to, 17 victims were cheated of more than $83,000.

Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Selene Yap said he made partial restitution of $22,030.

The court heard that Mohamed Hafidz, who was unemployed at the time, cheated his friends into paying for tickets to see U2 as well as the International Champions Cup (ICC) - an exhibition football tournament - in Singapore in 2019.

He either never delivered the tickets or sent them fake ones.

The 2019 edition of the ICC here featured European teams Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus and Inter Milan.

The court heard that from March to June 2019, he deceived victims into believing that he was able to buy tickets for the match between Manchester United and Inter Milan that was held in July 2019, as well as the U2 concerts on Nov 30 and Dec 1, 2019. 

He also tricked others into believing that he was able to buy sports shoes and attire but did not deliver these items. 

Some time between March and April 2019, Mohamed Hafidz contacted his friends and told them that he was able to purchase ICC match tickets at a 20 per cent discount.

After they transferred him the money, he made excuses for not passing them the tickets and later became uncontactable.

Several of the victims filed police reports in July 2019.

DPP Yap urged the court to impose 18 months' jail, noting that he had breached his friends' trust.

In mitigation, Mohamed Hafidz said he was able to deliver some tickets and had previously delivered shoes to his former client.

"I overpromised my friends which is not right. I apologise for that... For the rest, after this sentence, I will be making payments to them," he added.

Mohamed Hafidz assisted the Schooling family with media queries following the swimmer's victory at the 2016 Rio Games.

He worked part-time for Schooling's swim school, known as Swim Schooling, but his employment was terminated after reports of his ICC ticket scam surfaced in July 2019.