Money mule who collected criminal proceeds totalling $760,000 jailed for 4½ years

SINGAPORE - A money mule working for an international syndicate behind scams involving police impersonation travelled to Singapore 14 times in 2017 to collect and transfer criminal proceeds totalling almost $760,000.

Malaysian Tan Kim Hui, 24, was sentenced to 4½ years' jail on Monday (Jan 7) for his role in the offences, committed between April and July 2017.

He pleaded guilty in October last year to five counts of abetment by conspiracy to help his accomplices retain the benefits of criminal conduct involving more than $670,000. Nine other similar charges involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

Tan was introduced to the syndicate in early 2017 and took instructions from a fellow Malaysian known only as Ole.

As part of the ruse, a fraudster would contact a victim and, pretending to be a police officer, claim the person was being investigated for various offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao said: "The scammer will then deceive the victim into handing over control of the victim's bank account... Money will be withdrawn from the victim's bank account and delivered to 'money mules', who collect the money and deliver it to the scammers.

"Sometimes, these victims are tricked by the scammers into helping the scammer transfer monies, in the belief that they were assisting police investigations. Such victims are known as 'victim-mules'."

DPP Foo added that Tan was tasked to travel to Singapore to collect and transfer proceeds of the syndicate's cheating activities. Tan said the syndicate paid him between RM200 and RM1,500 (S$66 and S$495) for each trip here.

The court heard one victim was duped into parting with almost $50,000 in cash, which was handed to a victim-mule before Tan arrived in Singapore on May 9, 2017 to collect it. Tan then passed the money to Ole in Malaysia.

Tan committed similar offences involving almost $300,000 in July 2017. On July 12 that year, he arrived in Singapore with an alleged accomplice known as Lay Guo Zheng to collect almost $265,000. A week later, they met a third man, Gerald Yap, in Johor Baru, and the trio came here.

Lay allegedly collected $50,000 from an unknown person in Chinatown while the other two men acted as look-outs. The trio then went to Yishun, where Lay allegedly collected an ATM card from a victim-mule and withdrew $8,900. They returned to Malaysia and handed the cash to Ole.

On Monday, defence lawyer Ashwin Ganapathy pleaded for Tan to be sentenced to 4½ years' jail, stressing that his client was "immature and impressionable" when he committed the offence. Yap has been dealt with, while the case involving Lay is still pending.