Woman kept $50k banked into her account from love scam

Christina Cheong, 63, ignored the scammer's instruction to pass the money to someone else.
Christina Cheong, 63, ignored the scammer's instruction to pass the money to someone else.

A part-time English teacher met a man online, who convinced her to allow $50,030 to be deposited into her bank account.

The man, known only as Collins, did not tell Christina Cheong Yoke Lin that the money was the proceeds of a love scam inflicted on another woman.

Cheong, 63, felt suspicious but did not alert the police when Collins told her to pass $50,000 to "one of his boss' associates". Instead, she ignored Collins' instructions and decided to keep the money.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty yesterday to dishonestly misappropriating cash. The court heard that she knew Collins through an online dating platform, Badoo, in early August 2017.

She told him that she was in debt and he then asked if she would allow his boss' associates to make use of her bank accounts.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jun Chong said: "Collins explained that the accused could take $500 out of each transaction and bring the rest of the money to Johor Baru, Malaysia."

Cheong agreed to "try out" the arrangement. The court heard that a 54-year-old victim of a love scam transferred $50,030 to Cheong's bank account on Aug 17, 2017. Collins then told Cheong to pass $50,000 to one of his boss' associates, but she decided to keep the money instead.

On Aug 21, 2017, Cheong transferred $31,000 to a Malaysian bank account to help a man with whom she was in love. The man, known only as Mark Anthony, was also a scammer who had told her that he was purportedly detained by the Malaysian authorities.

The prosecutor said: "As for the remaining $19,000, from Aug 18 to Sept 4, 2017, the accused spent $1,000 on her own expenses and transferred the remainder to various foreign bank accounts over several occasions pursuant to the instructions of one 'Chong Lee', who had promised to give the accused $800,000 for her help as part of an inheritance scam."

Cheong was caught after the 54-year-old Singaporean woman linked to Collins' love scam alerted the police on Sept 22, 2017.

Defence lawyer Yu Kexin told the court yesterday that Cheong has made full restitution. Ms Yu urged District Judge Ng Peng Hong to call for a report to assess her client's suitability for a mandatory treatment order (MTO), saying that Cheong was suffering from major depressive disorder when she committed the offence.

Offenders given an MTO have to undergo treatment for their mental conditions in lieu of jail time.

The judge has called for the report and Cheong, who was offered bail of $25,000, will be back in court on June 26.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline Woman kept $50k banked into her account from love scam. Subscribe