Prosecution seeks at least 8 years' jail for woman who was mastermind of renovation scam

SINGAPORE - The prosecution on Monday (Sept 3) urged a district court to sentence a 41-year-old woman, who was the mastermind of a renovation scam involving nearly $1.8 million, to at least eight years' jail.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting said that Husniyati Omar returned to a life of crime just one month after she was released from jail in August 2015.

She had been sentenced to four months' jail that year after admitting to cheating offences. Following her release, she misappropriated $68,260 from her employer, home renovation company Elegance Concept, between September and December 2015.

She left the firm in January 2016. After that, she cheated 89 homeowners and subcontractors of nearly $1.8 million.

Stressing that Husniyati was a persistent offender who has made no restitution, DPP Lee told District Judge Edgar Foo: "The accused cheated unsuspecting homeowners to enter into home renovation contracts which she and her husband had no intention of fulfilling.

"The accused also cheated many subcontractors to supply and deliver renovation materials and labour, even though the accused had no intention of paying them."

Defence lawyer Goh Chui Ling pleaded for her client to be given three years' jail. She told Judge Foo that Husniyati, who has seven children between three and 19 years old, regrets her actions and is "extremely remorseful".

 
 

She pleaded guilty last month to 20 cheating charges and one count of criminal breach of trust. These 21 charges involved almost $770,000. Another 126 charges for similar offences involving the remaining amount will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court was told that 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 Ms Wong $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.

DPP Lee said the couple promised homeowners and prospective customers that the company was able to complete its renovation works within specific deadlines.

However, Husniyati never had the intention of ensuring that Carpentry Design Works would honour the agreements or complete the renovation works.

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 subcontractor, engaged to do flooring works, alerted the police on April 13 last year, and she was arrested.

While out on bail, Husniyati asked Mr Mohammad Khairuldin Abdullah, 32, to set up another renovation firm, Chanteq Flooring Specialist. She continued  to commit cheating offences, with the same modus operandi, through this new firm.

Husniyati will be sentenced on Sept 25. The case involving Aszrul is still pending.