Man in $1.6m renovation scam given 5½ years' jail

A man who, along with his wife, swindled 74 home owners and subcontractors out of more than $1.6 million by running a renovation firm that failed to honour contracts was sentenced to 5½ years' jail yesterday.

Aszrul Mohd Yusoff, 39, had pleaded guilty earlier this month to 18 cheating charges involving nearly $652,000. Another 115 counts of cheating linked to the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

His 41-year-old wife, Husniyati Omar, who masterminded the scam, was jailed for seven years and nine months last September after pleading guilty to 20 cheating charges and one count of criminal breach of trust. Her offences involved nearly $1.8 million in all.

Before yesterday's sentencing, District Judge Edgar Foo said the case involved a large sum of money and many victims. He also noted that Aszrul had made no restitution.

Husniyati had asked a friend to set up Carpentry Design Works in early 2016, knowing that contracts in such businesses often required substantial upfront payments.

She then asked Ms Christina Wong Hoi Khay, 24, to be its sole director and shareholder as the couple were undischarged bankrupts. However, the firm and its bank accounts were managed by the couple at all times.

Aszrul was the firm's project director while his wife was in charge of sales and securing new customers. In April 2016, they opened an office and showroom in Telok Kurau Road and another in Yishun Industrial Street 1.

 
 
 

A Facebook page for Carpentry Design Works was also set up and the couple enticed home owners into hiring them - although they had no intention of honouring the agreements they made.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Goh said: "Only partial works such as hacking, carpentry works and installation of air-conditioning units were carried out... When the victims grew anxious, as their intended deadline for the completion of the renovation works loomed, they would contact the accused, who would claim that the renovation works would be completed after further payments were made."

The victims, caught in a bind, frequently made additional payments.

But the renovation works set out in their agreements would not be carried out, said the DPP. The couple also cheated their subcontractors and did not pay for their services. The offences came to light when a subcontractor alerted the police in April 2017.

Defence lawyer R. Dilip Kumar had earlier told Judge Foo that the couple have seven children aged between three and 20.

The court heard that with both parents now behind bars, the four youngest children are in foster care while their older siblings are living with relatives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'Man in $1.6m renovation scam given 5½ years' jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe