SINGAPORE - A serial cheat, who posed as a lawyer to trick 21 victims out of nearly $1.8 million, was sentenced to more than seven years' jail on Friday (Feb 12).
Sim Tee Peng, 39, had last month pleaded guilty to 23 charges, which included cheating, criminal misappropriation, theft, forgery and giving false information. Another 41 charges were taken into consideration.
For these offences, the salesman was jailed seven years and two months.
He received an additional 12 weeks' jail for three charges of counterfeiting stamp duty certificates for property transactions.
Over a period of 14 months, Sim collected stamp duty payments and other conveyancing-related fees from property buyers supposedly on behalf of four law firms.
He received between $17,088 and $312,000 from each victim from June 2011 to September 2012.
Although he previously worked as a paralegal, with about four years of conveyancing experience, Sim was never formally employed by the law firms and did not have a valid practising certificate. Thus, he was not authorised to practise law or act as an advocate and solicitor in Singapore.
His modus operandi involved instructing the property buyers to deposit the monies into his personal bank account or his company's bank account. He would inform them that he had issued his own personal cheques for the payments.
At that time, Sim was the director of general wholesale company WW Hub.
To further deceive his clients that the fees were paid, Sim would present fake documents, such as false invoices using a law firm's letterhead or copies of unissued personal cheques.
On one occasion, Sim even used the title "partner" on name cards given to property buyers.
His scheme also involved creating forged stamp certificates to dupe a law firm into giving him reimbursements.
On these occasions, his clients had made payments directly to the law firm's account instead. Sim then falsely represented to the law firm that he had already assisted to pay the stamp duties on their behalf using his personal funds.
Sim used the money he amassed to fund his personal expenses, such as buying a BMW 5 Series car, which he had also driven with an expired vehicle licence number.
His offences came to light when the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore conducted investigations over a forged stamp certificate for a property transaction handled by him.
For cheating, Sim could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.