Taiwanese man jailed 6½ years for helping to cheat people of $957k

While he had reason to suspect he was involved in a crime, Huang Ying-Chun continued to work as a runner, the court was told.
While he had reason to suspect he was involved in a crime, Huang Ying-Chun continued to work as a runner, the court was told.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

A 53-year-old Taiwanese, enticed by a monthly salary of $2,700, came to work in Singapore in a police-impersonation scam that cheated seven people of nearly $1 million.

Huang Ying-Chun was engaged by an international crime syndicate as a runner to collect and hand over "documents" that were actually bundles of cash.

Yesterday, he was sentenced to 6½ years' jail for dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct, a crime with a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong, in passing sentence, said he had to "send a strong signal" to foreigners that Singapore "is not a place you can commit offences and get away with it lightly".

The victims were aged between 50 and 82. They include Mr Tan Kok Phuang, who lost $650,000. Mr Tan, 82, was conned into giving his bank account details to members of the syndicate.

It is not stated in court papers how he was duped but a victim of the same syndicate said she was told by scammers impersonating police officers that she was being investigated for money laundering.

In all the cases Huang was involved in, the victims' money was transferred to unrelated third parties, who were then instructed by syndicate operatives pretending to be the police, to withdraw the cash and hand it to Huang and a co-accused, Chen Peng-Yu, 34.

Huang, recruited by a man known only as Ah Fei, had arrived in Singapore with Chen on June 21 last year. The next day, he realised that the so-called documents he was instructed to deliver were bundles of cash, totalling $50,000.

Despite having reason to suspect he was involved in a crime, he continued to work as a runner, the court heard. He was arrested last July and is among six people, mostly suspected runners, who have been caught. Court documents did not say how they were nabbed.

Huang is the first among them to be dealt with in court. Of the $957,000 the syndicate collected, only $1,050 have been recovered.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting said that in 2016, there were reportedly 487 police-impersonation scams, with victims cheated of a total of $23 million. It is "notoriously difficult" to investigate international syndicates, she added.

In mitigation, Huang said, in Mandarin, that he has two elderly parents and his mother suffers from depression. "I'm very remorseful, please give me one last chance to turn over a new leaf," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2018, with the headline 'Taiwanese man jailed 6½ years for helping to cheat people of $957k'. Print Edition | Subscribe