Taxi driver gets 6 months' jail for using passenger's credit card, cheating

Benjamin Bill Chan Ching Hao was sentenced to 24 weeks' jail after he admitted to criminal misappropriation and cheating at Mustafa Centre.
Benjamin Bill Chan Ching Hao was sentenced to 24 weeks' jail after he admitted to criminal misappropriation and cheating at Mustafa Centre.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A part-time taxi driver kept a credit card left behind by a passenger and used it to make transactions for taxi fares and buy electronic goods at Mustafa Centre.

On Tuesday (Sept 19), Benjamin Bill Chan Ching Hao was sentenced to 24 weeks' jail after he admitted to criminal misappropriation and cheating at Mustafa Centre.

Three other charges were considered in sentencing.

Chan, 35, was a relief driver on Jan 15 when he noticed a Standard Chartered credit card on the back seat of his taxi.

He took the card, which belonged to a 32-year-old man, and used it twice to make payment for fares which had already been paid for in cash by passengers.

He then made a third transaction to test whether the card could be used.

The total fares came up to $42.

In the early hours of the next day, he drove to Mustafa Centre in Serangoon Road and used the credit card to pay for an iPhone 7 and an iPad Mini 4 totalling $2,266. He cheated a cashier into believing that he was the rightful owner of the credit card.

He then left Mustafa Centre in the taxi and threw the credit card out of the window while driving in Serangoon North.

He sold the two items for RM5,000 (S$1,600) the following week to an unknown person at Johor Baru's Holiday Inn Plaza.

In all, he used the credit card to make four transactions for a total value of $2,308. He has made full restitution.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh had sought six months' jail for the cheating charge and two months for criminal misappropriation.

He said it was aggravating that Chan had misappropriated a passenger's property. A taxi driver, he said, has the legal obligation to return property and pass it to the taxi company because he performs a public service, which requires a high level of professionalism.

A significant amount of premeditation was involved in this case, he added.

Chan, who had two previous convictions for theft, was allowed to start his sentence on Oct 16.

Noting that Chan was going to be a father soon, District Judge Lorraine Ho said that she hoped he would turn over a new leaf and be a responsible father.

Chan could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for cheating, and for criminal misappropriation, up to two years' jail and/or fined.