Law firm employee jailed 3 months for cheating woman of $12,000

SINGAPORE - A litigation manager at a law firm cheated a woman of $12,000 after making her believe that he was able to provide legal services concerning her late husband's will and block the sale of her marital home.

Leonie Tan Teck Chye, 54, was jailed for three months on Thursday (Sept 28) after he admitted to cheating Malaysian Ng Say Chuon, 54, at his former employer's office, Prestige Legal, in Chin Swee Road, on June 30, 2015.

Madam Ng, who is a Singapore permanent resident, was unemployed then but began work shortly as a pantry support attendant at a hospital where she still works.

She knows only a few basic words in English, having studied in Malaysia up to secondary level.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew told the court that Madam Ng first approached Prestige Legal some time in August 2014. She had wanted to get a divorce from her estranged husband. But he died in April 2015 before the divorce was granted.

The law firm informed Madam Ng that her husband had left her $50,000 under his will, and that the money was to come from the sale proceeds of their marital home, an HDB flat in Clementi Avenue 4.

She was unhappy and felt that she should receive more.

She heard from friends that as a legal wife, the sale of the marital home needed her consent before it could go ahead.

When she called the law firm, Tan, who was not a lawyer, told her to go down to discuss the matter further.

On June 30, 2015, she met Tan at Prestige and asked if she could prevent the sale of the flat. He said that she had to apply through the courts, and asked her for $1,000 as a processing fee when he had no intention, nor was he able, to render such legal services.

Later that day, Tan called and told the victim that she would have to pay $2,000 instead. He also told her to pay him outside of the law firm because he was helping her on a "private basis", said DPP Chew.

The next day, when Madam Ng called Tan from the ground floor of the building, he told her that he would need another $2,000, as the matter required a lot of money.

He duped her into handing over two sums of $2,000 on July 1; $5,000 on July 2; and $3,000 on July 4.

Subsequently, Madam Ng told her niece, Ms Evelyn Ng, about the matter. Ms Ng smelled a rat and sent a text message to Tan before contacting Prestige to inquire about the matter.

At a meeting at the law firm on Aug 17 that year, Tan reluctantly provided two post-dated cheques, each for the sum of $6,000, made out to the victim, the court heard. He wrote "Return of Loan" on the back of each cheque in an attempt to confirm that the sums were extended as a loan and not because he had cheated Madam Ng. This was untrue, the court was told.

When Ms Ng tried to bank in one of the cheques, it bounced. Tan texted Ms Ng to inform her that he had been declared bankrupt and that she would need to file a claim with the Official Assignee.

Tan made full restitution on Aug 16, 2017, about a year after he was charged.

He could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined for cheating.

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