Debt collection firm boss jailed 30 weeks, fined $80,000 for falsely claiming to be legal consultant

Tan Kian Tiong, 52, was sentenced to jail for 30 weeks and fined $80,000 on Jan 9, 2019.
Tan Kian Tiong, 52, was sentenced to jail for 30 weeks and fined $80,000 on Jan 9, 2019.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The boss of a debt collection company who sent letters of demand to debtors while falsely claiming to be a "legal consultant" will now have to pay his debts to society.

Tan Kian Tiong, 52, the sole proprietor of Double Ace Associates (DAA), was sentenced to jail for 30 weeks and fined $80,000 on Wednesday (Jan 9).

He will be appealing against the sentence and is currently out on $30,000 bail.

He pleaded guilty in November 2018 to 40 counts of being an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor, and 20 counts of falsely stating that his company was a "limited liability partnership" or "LLP".

All the offences were committed between 2013 and 2015.

During sentencing, 1,083 other similar charges were taken into consideration.

"The protection of the public from such false and misleading claims to legal services demands a stiff sentence," Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew told the court, asking for a total sentence of eight months' jail and $80,000 fine.

"A strong deterrent message must be sent to ensure public confidence in the legal profession and safeguard the integrity of regulatory regime under the LPA (Legal Profession Act)."

In mitigation, defence lawyer Lee Wei Liang said his client had expressed remorse, which was evident in how quickly he removed the parts of the DAA's letters that were in breach of the law.

Mr Lee added that Tan, a first-time offender, is his family's sole breadwinner, and a heavy sentence would cause family members great financial hardship.

The court had previously heard that Tan sent out letters of demand to all alleged debtors of his clients, using a template found on the Internet and modifying it to suit his purposes.

He then instructed his employees to use a standard format for all DAA's letters of demand.

The ruse came to light on Aug 5, 2014, when a 56-year-old woman received one such letter, and showed it to her lawyer for legal advice.

Another woman received a letter of demand from DAA in June 2015 and wrote a complaint letter to the Law Society, as she thought that it had come from a "legal firm".