No jail for woman who kept love-scam money

Christina Cheong Yoke Lin was sentenced to an 18-month mandatory treatment order.
Christina Cheong Yoke Lin was sentenced to an 18-month mandatory treatment order.

A woman who kept the ill-gotten gains of a love scammer was duped into giving away most of the money to a different online Casanova.

Christina Cheong Yoke Lin, a part-time English teacher, had allowed a love scammer to use her bank account to retain the $50,030 his victim had transferred over. She later decided to keep $50,000 for herself.

For dishonestly misappropriating the money, the 63-year-old was yesterday sentenced to an 18-month mandatory treatment order in lieu of jail time.

Cheong had been found to be suffering from a major depressive disorder when she committed the offence.

The court heard that Cheong, who pleaded guilty in May, met a man, known only as Collins, through online dating platform Badoo in early August 2017.

When she told him that she was in debt, he asked if she would allow his boss' associates to make use of her bank accounts.

The court heard that Collins had explained that Cheong could take $500 out of each transaction but she was to take the rest of the money to Johor Baru.

 
 
 

Cheong agreed to give the arrangement a try.

On Aug 17, 2017, the victim of a love scam transferred $50,030 to Cheong's bank account.

Collins then told Cheong to pass $50,000 to one of his boss' associates. Instead, she decided to keep the money.

But love came calling, and on Aug 21, 2017, Cheong transferred $31,000 to a Malaysian bank account, to help another man she was smitten with. However, the man, known only as Mark Anthony, was also a scammer.

He convinced Cheong that he needed the money because he was purportedly detained by the Malaysian authorities.

Cheong was caught after the Singaporean woman linked to Collins' love scam alerted the police on Sept 22 that year.

It is unclear what happened to the online Casanovas, but Cheong has since made full restitution.

In sentencing Cheong, District Judge Ng Peng Hong said that "rehabilitation outweighs retribution and deterrence" in this case.

The prosecution will be filing an appeal against the sentence.

For dishonestly misappropriating the money, Cheong could have been jailed for up to two years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2019, with the headline 'No jail for woman who kept love-scam money'. Print Edition | Subscribe