Man jailed for cheating 2 victims with durian and investment scams

Ho Teck Lai convinced his victim to lend him $4,200 to pay for durian fruits, but used the money to pay his supplier for other orders and for gambling. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Under the pretence of securing an order of durians for a Ministry of Education (MOE) event, a durian seller convinced a man to lend him $4,200 to pay for the fruit.

After receiving the money, Ho Teck Lai paid $1,000 to his durian supplier for other orders and used the remaining sum for online gambling.

On Wednesday, Ho, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating and was sentenced to 10 months' jail. He was given an additional sentence of 98 days' jail for breaching the basic condition of his remission order, which allows an inmate to spend a portion of the sentence outside of jail.

If a person breaches the remission order, such as by committing an offence, the court may impose an enhanced jail term not exceeding the remaining duration of the remission order.

Ho's previous offences pertaining to the remission order included cheating.

After his employment stint at Ang Mo Kio Community Care Facility between September and December 2021, Ho became self-employed in a durian business.

In January 2022, Mr Timothy Lee Chee Haw, who was interested in getting into the durian industry, got in touch with Ho after finding out about him from a fellow member in a WhatsApp group.

On Jan 22, Ho told Mr Lee that he had an upcoming order for an MOE event and needed $4,200 to make upfront payment to a supplier to secure durians for this order.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting said: "This was a false representation, as the accused did not in fact have any such upcoming order from MOE."

When Ho told Mr Lee he would return the money after receiving payment from MOE, Mr Lee believed him and transferred the money.

"When Lee started asking for repayment, the accused came up with various excuses," said DPP Ting, adding that Ho has not made any restitution to date.

Separately, in December 2021, Ho contacted Ms Chen Jing, whom he had got to know at the Ang Mo Kio Community Care Facility, about an "investment opportunity".

He told her that if she invested $5,000, she would receive a dividend of 6 per cent of the invested sum in two weeks on top of her investment.

Ms Chen agreed but told Ho she had only $4,900. He told her to transfer $4,800 to him and said he would "top up" $200 for her. Ho then used the money for online sports betting and to buy durians from suppliers.

On Jan 29, 2022, Ms Chen made a police report alleging she had been cheated by Ho in an investment scam.

Including other charges taken into consideration, Ho cheated his victims of a total of $9,733 between December 2021 and February 2022. No restitution has been made.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.