Serial offender in and out of jail for 5 decades convicted again at 72

He was released from jail last year for his last cheating offence but, in a matter of months, serial offender Ng Thiam Choon, 72, again tricked multiple victims into giving him money by lying that he had an emergency.

Ng, who has spent the past five decades in and out of prison, pleaded guilty on Thursday to seven charges of cheating from his latest spate of offences involving more than $1,300. A further 13 cheating charges will be taken into consideration.

District Judge Eddy Tham questioned Ng why the jail time over the past 46 years failed to stop him from cheating and called for a corrective training suitability report - a prison regime for repeat offenders without the usual one-third remission for good behaviour.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yee Jia Rong listed seven instances of Ng cheating victims of money of around $200 each between July 2021 and February this year.

In July, he cheated a Bugis Village shop attendant of $180 by lying he had an accident and needed to pay the other party urgently. Ng gave her a phone number to assure her he was contactable, but he never returned.

In February, Ng told a man in Jurong that he could not find his wife and asked for $200, claiming he could not withdraw any money.

DPP Yee said: "The accused was divorced and had no intention of returning the money to (the victim)."

The DPP detailed Ng's history of cheating, which dates back to 1976, when he was jailed for five months.

Since then, Ng had been detained for at least 18 years under preventive detention over cheating offences as well. In preventive detention, a recalcitrant offender receives a substantial period of imprisonment to protect the public.

Suggesting a corrective training suitability report for Ng, DPP Yee said the latest spate of offences were committed soon after his release from jail last year.

Ng pleaded with the judge for leniency. He said he cheated the victims only to buy food and because he could not find a job. He added that he suffered from chronic illnesses and wished to spend time with his brothers who were sick.

Judge Tham said to Ng: "What does the court do with you? You've been in and out of prison for a long time and the court is shocked that all your past imprisonments do not seem to deter you from committing such offences. You are repeating the same old story... that you can't find a job and things are hard, but that is life."

Ng, who is remanded, will return to court for sentencing next month.

Those convicted of cheating can face up to 10 years in jail and be fined.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline Serial offender in and out of jail for 5 decades convicted again at 72. Subscribe