SINGAPORE - A secondary school teacher who made two counterfeit $100 notes before using them to pay a Vietnamese masseuse was sentenced to three years' jail on Wednesday (Nov 15).
On Oct 5, District Judge Terence Tay found Daniel Wong Mun Meng, now 44, guilty of counterfeiting the money and using the fake notes as genuine currency.
Before handing out the sentence, the judge said that Wong’s offences were “unbecoming of a teacher” and that his career as an educator had been “greatly jeopardised”.
Judge Tay added: “The seriousness of the offences are reflected in their maximum sentence.”
Offenders convicted of dealing with counterfeit notes can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined for each charge.
During his eight-day trial, Wong had said: "In late July 2015, I photocopied two $100 notes of the same serial number using my home printer and ordinary A4-size paper. It was an experiment to use (them) as a teaching tool, to excite and engage students during my maths class because I believed many of them had not seen a $100 note before."
Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said Wong had the two fake notes in his wallet when he went to Orchard Towers around 2am on Aug 3, 2015.
Wong met Ms Nguyen Nhu Trang and they negotiated a price for her services.
They were later sitting in Wong's car when Wong held the two fake notes in his hand, DPP Asoka said.
The teacher showed the counterfeit money to Ms Trang before placing it in her handbag.
Wong's lawyer, Ms Melanie Ho, said her client had given Ms Trang the fake notes by mistake and it had been an "accidental use". She also said the notes were such bad specimens that they were not counterfeit.
But on Oct 5, Judge Tay said Wong had earlier stated that he had taken out the fake money from a wad of cash in his wallet.
The judge said: "If the notes are indeed devoid of any similarity to genuine $100 notes, there is no convincing explanation as to why the accused would not have realised that out of the wad of notes, he had taken out specifically the $100 notes that were not genuine.
"I have seen the (fake) $100 notes and I find that they are indeed rather similar to genuine $100 notes. They are far from a pronounced failure and a recipient may make an easy mistake."
The guest registration records of a Fragrance Hotel branch in Balestier Road revealed that Wong and Ms Trang checked in at 2.45am on Aug 3, 2015, and checked out about an hour later. According to Wong, he returned home after dropping Ms Trang off near River Valley Road that morning.
He told Judge Tay that it was only then that he realised he had "mistakenly" given her the fake money.
The case came to light after Ms Trang unwittingly tried to use one of the fake notes at a supermarket and was caught by an alert cashier.
Police officers arrested Wong at Bukit Batok Secondary School on Aug 20, 2015.
Wong has been suspended from duty since December that year.
On Wednesday, Ms Ho told the judge that “months of jail” will serve as sufficient deterrence for her client.
She added: “He was not keeping a stock of counterfeit notes... It was clear he had no intention of making further notes.”
DPP Asoka, however, urged the judge to sentence Wong to 3½ years’ jail.
Stressing that counterfeiting money is a very serious offence, he said that an example must be set to deter others from committing similar crimes.
Wong will be appealing against his conviction and sentence. He was offered bail of $30,000.