OCBC phishing scams: Youth committed crimes linked to money laundering while out on bail

The youth is one of seven youths charged in February 2022 over their alleged involvement in the scams. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - An 18-year-old was out on bail after committing crimes including robbery when he took part in money laundering-related activities linked to the OCBC Bank phishing scams.

He is one of seven youths charged in February 2022 over their alleged involvement in the scams that led to victims losing some $12.8 million.

When he was out on bail again, he committed another robbery in June 2022.

The offender, who turned 20 on Dec 14, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to seven charges, including one count each of driving a car without a licence and allowing others to control bank accounts despite having reasonable grounds to believe that these would be used to handle benefits of criminal conduct. He also admitted to two counts of robbery.

He cannot be named as he was below 18 years old when he committed some of his offences. Such individuals are covered under the Children and Young Persons Act.

The youth is also a repeat offender and was earlier ordered to undergo probation over offences such as causing hurt by performing a rash act.

On Tuesday, District Judge Kessler Soh noted the offender’s earlier brushes with the law and called for a report to assess his suitability for reformative training. 

Young people sentenced to reformative training are detained in a centre where they follow a strict regimen that can include foot drills and counselling.

Others linked to the OCBC phishing scams, including Mark Teo Sin Yan, 32, and Leong Jun Xian, then 21, were dealt with in court earlier.

The cases involving several others, including Kong Jia Quan and Muhammad Khairuddin Eskandariah, both 20, are pending.

The youth who was convicted on Tuesday was just 17 in June 2020 when he started his crime spree. He used another person’s debit card to buy items including two packets of cigarettes worth $28.40.

He later became a member of a group linked to the OCBC phishing scams.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Siu Ming said: “The accused and co-accused persons had worked together as a group to provide money-laundering services to various unknown persons believed to be linked to overseas syndicates, by sourcing and providing control of bank accounts to these unknown persons.

“Some of these bank accounts were subsequently used to receive and dissipate funds from victims of the OCBC phishing scams, while other bank accounts were used to receive and dissipate funds from victims of other scams.”

The syndicates also told the group to withdraw cash from automated teller machines (ATMs).

The group had received instructions from the unknown people, and provided the account credentials of the bank accounts they had obtained for the syndicates.

They used three chat groups on messaging platform Telegram to communicate with one another.

DPP Teo said: “(The offender) withdrew cash from ATMs on the instructions of Jun Xian and Jia Quan. He provided bank accounts belonging to (a friend) to one ‘William’, who is known to the group as the syndicate leader in the K2 group chat.

“He was promised by Jun Xian and Jia Quan a salary of $1,500 a month as well as commission. He was paid about $2,000.”

The offender had obtained two bank accounts from his friend and provided the details to the syndicate. The accounts were later used to receive ill-gotten gains totalling $85,220 from 10 victims of the OCBC phishing scams.

In all, the group provided at least 16 bank accounts to the syndicates in the Telegram group chats between December 2021 and February 2022, receiving nearly $600,000 in total from different scams, including the OCBC phishing ones.

Between Dec 8, 2021, and Jan 19, 2022, the police received 768 reports from OCBC bank account holders who had fallen prey to phishing scams perpetrated by unknown scammers.

OCBC said in January that it had made full goodwill payouts to all victims.

Separately, the offender was also part of a group that confronted a 20-year-old man in Simei on May 17, 2021. The victim was robbed of nearly $1,500 in cash and valuables before he was told to strip naked.

One of the offender’s accomplices then recorded two videos of the victim in the nude.

On June 6, 2022, the offender robbed a 16-year-old boy of jewellery worth more than $6,000 near Central Mall in Magazine Road, off Havelock Road.

He will be sentenced on Jan 17, 2023.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.