2 Taiwanese men jailed for being money mules in police impersonation scam

Wang Wei Ciang (right), 24, was jailed for three years and Wang Wei-Ming, 25, for 3½ years.
Wang Wei Ciang (right), 24, was jailed for three years and Wang Wei-Ming, 25, for 3½ years.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two Taiwanese money mules for an international syndicate responsible for police impersonation scams in Singapore were jailed on Thursday (March 8).

Wang Wei Ciang, 24, was jailed for three years and Wang Wei-Ming, 25, imprisoned for 3½ years. The two men are not related to each other.

Each man pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a conspiracy to deal with the benefits of criminal conduct. Between Aug 1 and 8 last year, Wang Wei-Ming dealt with cash totalling $663,250 while Wang Wei Ciang handled $254,800.

The court heard that the modus operandi of the syndicate was for the scammers, who would pretend to be police officers, to contact their victims and tell them that they were under investigation for various offences.

The scammers would then dupe the victims into handing over details of their bank accounts.

Cash would then be withdrawn from the victims' accounts and delivered to the money mules. The money mules would subsequently hand the cash over to the scammers.

The court heard that "intermediate mules" were used, often with the money changing hands several times before finally reaching the scammers.

Before handing out the sentences on Thursday, District Judge Terence Tay said: "Criminal syndicates are known to layer their transactions and set up smokescreens to conceal the transactions and the identities of the perpetrators. As such, the penalties for such offences are necessarily serious."

The two men were in Taiwan when they took up an offer to work in Singapore. Wang Wei Ciang was told that he could earn up to NT$50,000 (about S$2,200) while Wang Wei-Ming was promised NT$100,000.

Wang Wei-Ming was told that his job involved the collection and delivery of unspecified items. He agreed to work in Singapore even though he suspected that it was connected to something illegal . The court heard that he arrived at Changi Airport on July 31 last year and Wang Wei Ciang flew in the next day. The pair met for the first time near Chinatown Point on Aug 1.

Between Aug 2 and 8, Wang Wei Ciang received several instructions via Skype from one Da Li and was told to collect envelopes containing cash at places including Clementi Mall and Istana Park. After that, he would hand over the monies to Wang Wei-Ming.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao said: "Investigations affirmed that Wei Ciang collected a total of S$254,800 in cash monies from various victims. Wei Ciang had reason to believe that these activities were part of an illegal arrangement and that the monies he would be collecting were illegally obtained."

At around the same time, Wang Wei-Ming was told by one Bi Ge to collect cash from Wang Wei Ciang. He did so in a Chinatown toilet cubicle.

Bi Ge also told Wang Wei-Ming to collect cash from other people. In all, he collected $663,250 in cash.

"At all material times, Wei-Ming had reasonable grounds to believe that these monies were from illegal sources," said DPP Foo.

Court papers did not reveal anything more on the identities of Da Li and Bi Ge.

Both Wang Wei-Ming and Wang Wei Ciang were arrested on Aug 8. The authorities also seized $13,250 in cash in Wang Wei-Ming's possession.

Each man could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000 for dealing with the benefits of criminal activities.