SINGAPORE - A freelance IT consultant cheated 62 people of more than $500,000 through a series of investment scams, as he needed cash to fund his gambling habit.
Alvin Ker Jia Jun, 31, pleaded guilty on Monday (Aug 19) to 40 cheating charges involving 23 people and about $300,000.
Another 94 cheating charges linked to the remaining amount, as well as one count of dealing with the proceeds of his criminal activities, will be taken into consideration during sentencing. He committed his offences from 2017 to last year.
Each cheating charge involved between $200 and $40,000. Some of his victims, which included his friends, were cheated multiple times.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelvin Chong told District Judge Edgar Foo that Ker developed a gambling habit in 2017.
Ker then hatched a plan to convince others to hand him cash so that he would have more money to gamble.
He then used his personal Facebook account to create various posts for non-existent investment schemes which purported to offer attractive guaranteed rates of return.
The DPP said that one of these was a scheme that offered to double the money that investors put into it within a year, while guaranteeing the capital that had been invested.
After creating the posts, Ker asked his friends to help share these on their own social media platforms to gain more visibility and publicity.
The court heard that many unsuspecting victims then approached Ker on Facebook or called his mobile phone, as they were interested in investing.
Ker would then offer them a "litany" of explanations on how their money would be "invested".
For instance, he told some of them that their cash would be used for investments in an educational institution.
Ker also claimed that his victims' cash would be invested in an opportunity related to the SkillsFuture scheme provided by the Government.
Instead, he used their money to gamble in casinos both in Singapore and overseas. The court heard that Ker transferred a portion of his winnings into some of the victims' bank accounts to cover his tracks.
DPP Chong said: "After transferring the amount, the accused would (take a) screenshot of the bank transfer screen in his mobile banking application and post the screenshot on his Facebook page. This was done so as to create confidence in the purported investment scheme and to motivate more people to invest money with him."
However, Ker later went on a losing streak. To placate his victims, who were asking for their returns, he would come up with excuses such as claiming that he had reached his transfer limit.
He eventually lost all the money his victims had given him, the court heard.
The police were alerted and he was arrested on March 5 last year when he returned to Singapore from a gambling trip in Vietnam.
He has since paid more than $100,000 in restitution.
Ker, who is represented by lawyer Steven John Lam, is expected to be sentenced on Oct 15.
For each count of cheating, he can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.