Reformative training for teen who posed as female sex workers online to scam victims

Jerell Lim Jing Kai had his probation revoked after pleading guilty to his latest offences. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A teenager was on probation for fighting in a public place when he reoffended by posing as female sex workers online to cheat two men of $4,000 in total.

Jerell Lim Jing Kai, now 19, had his probation revoked after pleading guilty to his latest offences - five counts of cheating and one count of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities.

The Singaporean teenager was sentenced to at least six months of reformative training on Thursday (Sept 30).

This means that he will be detained in a centre and made to follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

In February last year, he hatched a plan to cheat others of cash and went on online classifieds website Locanto to create a fictitious profile as a 20-year-old woman called Bernise.

Lim took an image of an unknown woman from social media platform Instagram and used it as Bernise's display picture.

He also created an account on messaging platform Telegram with the username "bernisewz". Lim then approached a friend and asked to "borrow" his bank account.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lai Yan said: "(The friend) would receive money in his bank account and withdraw the money at the accused's instruction, and would be paid 20 per cent of the money he received in his bank account as commission.

"(The friend) agreed to this arrangement and provided the accused with his bank account and the PayLah QR code linked to his bank account."

On March 27 last year, a 24-year-old man, who cannot be named due to a gag order, found Bernise's profile on Locanto and sent a message. Posing as the imaginary Bernise, Lim replied and offered sexual services. They then made arrangements to meet up.

The DPP added: "However, 'Bernise' then informed the victim that ('her') sister was hospitalised, and that she was therefore unable to meet up with him. 'Bernise' then asked the victim for a loan to help with her sister's medical bill. As proof, 'Bernise' sent the victim a photo of a medical bill."

The next day, the victim transferred $1,000 into the bank account belonging to Lim's friend, who kept $200 as commission and handed $800 to Lim.

When the friend later decided not to take part in the ruse, Lim approached another person, who agreed to help him.

The court heard that Bernise continued to ask the victim for money, claiming that she needed to settle expenses for items, including more medical bills.

The victim then transferred another $2,520 into the second accomplice's account.

The victim finally suspected that he had been scammed and lodged a police report on April 26, 2020.

Using a similar method, Lim posed as another female sex worker online, "Felicia", and cheated a second victim of $480.

Separately, Lim also opened a bank account earlier this year and allowed the proceeds of an unrelated investment scam totalling more than $191,000 to be transferred into it.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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