Mastermind cheated 89 victims in $1.8m renovation scam

A woman who masterminded a renovation scam and also misappropriated cash from her employer has admitted in court that she targeted 89 victims who suffered nearly $1.8 million in losses.

The court heard that Husniyati Omar's victims included homeowners and subcontractors.

Husniyati, 41, pleaded guilty to 20 cheating charges and one count of criminal breach of trust yesterday. These 21 charges involved almost $770,000.

Another 126 charges for similar offences involving the remaining amount will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

In early 2016, Husniyati asked her friend Christina Wong Hoi Khay, 22, to be the sole director and shareholder of a renovation firm called Carpentry Design Works. Husniyati promised to give her $3,000 every month. However, the company and its bank accounts were at all times controlled by Husniyati and her husband Aszrul Yusoff, 37, the court heard.

In April 2016, Husniyati set up an office and a showroom in Telok Kurau and Yishun. She also created a Facebook page for Carpentry Design Works.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting said the couple promised prospective customers the firm could complete its renovation works within specific deadlines. But Husniyati never had the intention of ensuring that Carpentry Design Works would honour the agreements or complete the renovation works.

DPP Lee said: "Only hacking works were done to these victims' homes. The accused and her husband did not arrange any further works for these victims at their homes. When the victims grew anxious as their intended deadline for the completion of the renovation works loomed and contacted the accused or her husband, they would claim that further payments were necessary, even though the amount of work done was not commensurate with the payments which had been made by the victims."

Husniyati also duped subcontractors into believing that she would pay them for the work they had done. However, she had no intention of paying them, the court heard. One of them, engaged to do flooring works, alerted the police on April 13 last year and Husniyati was arrested.

While out on bail, Husniyati asked Mr Mohammad Khairuldin Abdullah, 32, to set up another renovation firm, Chanteq Flooring Specialist. She continued cheating through this new firm by using a similar method. The court also heard that before the renovation scam, Husniyati worked as a sales and marketing manager for a firm known as Elegance Concept. She misappropriated $68,260 from the firm between September and December 2015.

Husniyati will be back in court on Sept 3. Aszrul's case is still pending.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2018, with the headline 'Mastermind cheated 89 victims in $1.8m renovation scam'. Subscribe