A debt collector who helped a loan shark harass debtors to pay off his own debt was sentenced to four years and three months in jail plus 15 strokes of the cane yesterday.
Weng Jiajun, 32, had pleaded guilty to eight of 19 charges for offences under the Moneylenders Act and others.
The repeat offender was working with debt-collection company Double Ace Associates when a loan shark named Lucas recruited him in late December last year.
Lucas had promised to deduct $150 from Weng's debt for each debtor he harassed, and also threatened to burn hell notes at his parents' house if he did not agree to help.
Within a month, Weng went around Housing Board estates locking the grille gates of residents' homes with bicycle locks, splashing paint, writing graffiti on walls and leaving notes behind.
He was also fined the maximum $5,000 for using threatening words and behaviour to harass the wife of a Korean restaurant owner and patrons.
He had gone to the restaurant with two others from Double Ace on March 8 last year to demand payment of an alleged debt.
He and a Double Ace colleague also trespassed on a flat in Pandan Gardens in June last year to threaten a debtor's 66-year-old mother over an alleged debt of about $28,000.
Double Ace made the news in February this year when seven of its employees were charged with unlawful assembly.
They had confronted a stall owner at Funan DigitaLife Mall's foodcourt who owed money, and caused a stir by reportedly damaging items.
Seeking a deterrent sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Caleb Tan said Weng had been convicted of numerous offences of committing harassment for a fee on behalf of creditors.
He labelled him a "persistent and habitual offender" who has committed 29 offences under the Moneylenders Act, and added that Weng should not resort to "thuggish tactics" in the course of his employment.
The maximum punishment for an enhanced moneylending harassment charge is nine years' jail, a $60,000 fine and 10 strokes of the cane.