SINGAPORE - Two Taiwanese men pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday (Aug 8) to the roles they played in a transnational syndicate responsible for a spate of online police impersonation scams in Singapore.
Kuo Chih-chen, 32, who dealt with cash totalling $92,000, admitted to three counts of dealing with benefits of criminal conduct. Three other charges for similar offences will be taken into consideration during sentencing.
Ciou Wei-min, 22, who dealt with $22,000 in cash, pleaded guilty to one count of dealing with benefits of criminal conduct. The duo committed their offence in April and May this year.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said the syndicate from Taiwan targeted young or elderly victims who could be easily duped.
He added: "Typically, a victim would receive a call from an unknown individual posing as a law enforcement officer from either the Singapore Police Force or the China Police Force.
"The victim would be told that they were suspected of being involved in illegal criminal activities such as money laundering and would be asked to reveal their bank account details and secure PIN password, often on the pretext that such details were required for investigations."
The fraudsters would then gain access to their victims' bank accounts and make unauthorised electronic transfers from them to the accounts of other victims.
The scammers would then instruct the victims who received the money to withdraw the cash and hand it over to a syndicate operative.
DPP Asoka said: "All the victims involved in the scam would follow instructions believing that they were dealing with a legitimate law enforcement agency that was carrying out investigations."
While still in Taiwan in April, members of the syndicate approached Kuo and Ciou separately to offer them jobs.
They were told to come to Singapore to collect monies from people here and hand them over to others. As a reward, they were each promised NT$50,000 (S$2,265.80).
Kuo arrived in Singapore on April 26 and met a man known as Lin Yi Hong.
During Kuo's stay in Singapore, Lin taught him how to get in touch with syndicate members via Skype and how to travel on public transport to get to the meeting points. At these meeting points, Lin taught him how to avoid areas with closed-circuit television cameras when meeting with unknown people, so as to avoid detection.
Two days later, Kuo followed Lin to an overhead bridge opposite Bugis Junction to collect $41,900 from one of their victims, a Chinese national known as Feng Linjiao, 31.
After that, the two men went to the Resorts World Sentosa casino where Lin passed $40,000 of the amount collected to an accomplice while Kuo acted as a lookout.
On May 2, Kuo met another victim, Malaysian Woh Jian Meng, 24, outside Paya Lebar MRT Station and collected $19,800 from him.
Ciou arrived in Singapore on May 5 and followed Kuo to Tampines later that day.
They met yet another of the syndicate's victims, Chinese national He Xiaozhou, 48, who gave Kuo $22,000 in cash. Ciou acted as a lookout during this transaction.
The court heard that the police arrested the two Taiwanese men later that day.
DPP Asoka said Lin managed to leave Singapore before officers became aware of his role in the scam.
Kuo and Ciou, who are unrepresented, will be back in court on Aug 30.
For each count of dealing with benefits of criminal conduct, they can be jailed up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.