Sim Lim cheat cries and begs court for mercy - to no avail

Judge ticks him off for despicable deception and sentences him to 28 weeks' jail

A salesman cried in court yesterday, begging for mercy for cheating two customers at his shop in Sim Lim Square. But the judge dismissed the tears, saying he had no scruples, and sentenced him to 28 weeks' jail.

Justin Chew Chee Kin, 36, formerly a salesman at Gadget Terminal, which has since closed, had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring with the shop's boss, Chung Choon Cheik, 33, alias Gavin, to cheat two customers in 2014.

Chew is the first employee to be sentenced; a total of five men from the shop, including Chung, were charged in October last year with scheming to cheat their customers.

A district court heard that Chew started working for Chung, a fellow Malaysian, in April 2014.

Chung allegedly taught his staff to cheat customers. The staff would offer mobile phones at attractive prices. After initial payments were made, they would trick customers into paying more.

On Sept 30, 2014, Chew quoted a Chinese national working here $300 for an Apple iPhone 4S mobile phone. The customer paid and was asked to sign a document, supposedly a two-year worldwide warranty. Chew then told him he had to pay $480 for the warranty.

Chew threatened to fax the document to his office and complain to his employer if he did not pay. The customer called the police.

When the police arrived, Chew said the customer had three options: Pay the $480 for the phone, pay no extra amount but leave with a phone of lower value, or cancel the deal and forfeit part of the sum paid as a "cancellation fee". The customer incurred a $288 cancellation fee.

On Oct 12 that year, Chew quoted a Chinese national studying here $380 for a Xiaomi 4 mobile phone. The student handed Chew a $1,000 note, and was asked to sign for a two-year warranty. Chew then told him the total cost was now $980. The customer called the police when Chew refused to refund the sum.

When the police arrived, Chew insisted the customer pay more or cancel the deal and pay a $294 cancellation fee. This was reduced to $215 after negotiation.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Muhammad Faizal urged the court to impose a stiff sentence of four months' jail per charge, noting that Chew had tried to present both cases as simple contractual disputes.

He said the cheating cases at the shop had created a "deep sense of disquiet" among the public, along with those at another errant Sim Lim Square retailer, Mobile Air.

The DPP noted that the Consumers Association of Singapore had received 2,000 complaints against retailers in Sim Lim Square, Lucky Plaza and People's Park Centre from 2012 to 2014.

In mitigation, Chew, who did not have a lawyer, said he needed to support his family. "I humbly beg for leniency... my family needs me," he said, crying.

But District Judge Jasvender Kaur told him: "You had no scruples in carrying out a despicable deception on unsuspecting customers."

She jailed him for 14 weeks for each charge, with both jail terms to run consecutively.

He could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined per charge. Last year, Mobile Air's boss and four staff were each jailed four to 33 months for cheating.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Sim Lim cheat cries and begs court for mercy - to no avail'. Print Edition | Subscribe