S'porean fugitive lived a lie in US as 'lawyer' for years

He used real attorney's identity to practise before being caught, jailed and deported

To the people he helped with immigration matters in the United States, he was their lawyer, called to practise law in New York since 2000 and a professional of good standing.

Little did they know that the man they depended on to represent them to the federal authorities had secrets - he was using someone else's name and was not even a lawyer to begin with.

His own name was Ng Chong Lin and he had fled Singapore in June 2003, two days before his appeal against a jail sentence for forgery and other charges was to be heard.

This emerged in the High Court yesterday when that appeal, shelved for 13 years, came up for hearing.

For seven years, Ng, who was then 31, lived a lie in the US. He had at least seven aliases, one of them Daveng Wee, said US court papers. The name appeared to be an amalgamation of Dave Ng, a name he was known by.

His story could have been a movie plot. Ng got down to practising immigration law in New York City, using the name and registration number of a real attorney to file documents to federal authorities on behalf of individuals in various immigration matters between October 2006 and March 2009.

In 2010, Daveng Wee was caught out by the US authorities and jailed for four years for aggravated identity theft in impersonating an attorney, among other things.

His fingerprints, sent to Singapore after he was ordered to be deported in December 2013, revealed his true identity.

All his attempts to overturn his conviction failed and he was deported in May last year, when he was arrested and taken in to custody.

As part of their arguments for the appeal, prosecutors provided details of his offences in the US and succeeded in having the information admitted as fresh evidence.

However, the matter was adjourned and will be heard after the outcome of a new trial against Ng - this one for using a bogus passport when he skipped town in 2003.

In March 2003, Ng had pleaded guilty in a district court to forgery and other charges related to a company in which he was a director.

In April 2003, after he was sentenced to three years and three months' jail, he filed an appeal. He was granted bail and his passport handed to the Commercial Affairs Department.

That June, he applied for a passport and was issued one which bore his photograph but the particulars of one Wee Pui Kee. On June 22, 2003, two days before his appeal was to be heard, he used this passport to leave for New York.

Besides pretending to be a lawyer, he also claimed to have attended schools in New York when he applied for temporary residence in the US in May 2007.

In 2010, he pleaded guilty in the District Court of the Southern District of New York following a plea bargain in which he waived his right of appeal. But he later tried to withdraw his guilty plea and challenged his conviction, even filing a writ to the US Supreme Court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean fugitive lived a lie in US as 'lawyer' for years'. Print Edition | Subscribe