Woman on trial over 169 cheating charges

Tan Hwee Ngo, 69, is accused of being the mastermind of the alleged scam.
Tan Hwee Ngo, 69, is accused of being the mastermind of the alleged scam.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Man duped of at least $130k and old pal who roped him in conned of over $10k, court told

A former cleaner allegedly handed over more than $10,000 of her savings to a friend of about 30 years to take part in a purported investment scheme that did not exist, a district court heard yesterday .

Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 71, later introduced her long-time friend - petrol pump attendant Tan Soy Kiang - to the scheme because she wanted him to benefit financially.

In 1999, Mr Tan withdrew his entire Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings and allegedly handed the cash to dishwasher Tan Hwee Ngo. After that, he allegedly gave the accused at least $500 monthly via Madam Boo.

Referring to Mr Tan, 74, as Ah Tan, Madam Boo - who died of heart disease on April 21, 2016 - told the police: "If I had known this scheme was non-existent, I would not have roped Ah Tan in." Her police statements were read out in court yesterday, the first day of Tan Hwee Ngo's trial for allegedly cheating Mr Tan of at least $130,000.

The 69-year-old is accused of dishonestly inducing Mr Tan into withdrawing $53,161.64 from his CPF savings account in 1999 by saying payments were needed for a Mr Lee Kuan Yew. She also allegedly used the same reason to cheat Mr Tan into handing over at least $500 monthly of his money from 2000 to 2013.

It was not mentioned in court if the Mr Lee whom Tan had allegedly referred to was Singapore's late founding prime minister. Tan now faces 169 cheating charges.

Quoting Madam Boo's police statements, Station Inspector (SI) Manoj Kalwani told the court Tan Hwee Ngo was the mastermind, while Madam Boo had acted as a middleman between Mr Tan and the accused. SI Kalwani also testified Madam Boo had handed over between $10,000 and $20,000 of her own money to the accused over a period of about 15 years.

The case came to light when Mr Tan's niece, Madam Pamela Lim Puay San, lodged a police report on Feb 3, 2014, stating that her uncle had been giving away all of his income to a woman.

SI Kalwani told District Judge Terence Tay that officers recorded statements from Tan and Madam Boo.

Madam Boo gave the police another statement on Jan 12, 2016. Quoting her second statement, SI Kalwani testified that she referred to Tan Hwee Ngo as "Ah Ngo".

Madam Boo said: "It started when Ah Ngo mentioned that Yeo Hiap Seng had this intention to help senior citizens by giving high returns.

"To take part in this scheme, I can contribute $390 and I will get back $500 from Yeo Hiap Seng...I decided to take up this offer and invested $390 which I gave Ah Ngo in cash."

When she did not receive any returns, she approached Tan who allegedly told her that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had stepped in to take over "this senior citizen scheme".

Madam Boo told police that according to her friend, since Mr Lee had taken over, he needed to do "a lot of administrative and legal procedures" so the subscribers needed to continue to contribute to the legal and admin payments.

She added: "Ah Ngo kept telling me that if I don't pay by the following day, I would need to pay double. So, I was just scared and did not want to... get into trouble."

The trial resumes today .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline 'Woman on trial over 169 cheating charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe