SINGAPORE- A serial taxi-cheat was fined $8,000 and ordered to pay compensation of $871.65 after pleading guilty to 10 counts of fare evasion on Tuesday (June 13). Five other charges were taken into consideration.
From Jan 2014 to Oct 2016, Tan Mei Shan, 29, cheated 15 taxi drivers of fares ranging from $25.10 to $105.60.
If she is unable pay her fine and compensation amounts, Tan would have to serve 40 days in jail for the fine and 10 days for the compensation order.
The court heard that Tan, whose occupation is not known, modus operandi was to board a taxi and request to make multiple pit-stops during the trip to collect items or buy food.
She would leave her handphone number with the drivers and when contacted would say she was returning to the vehicle but would later become uncontactable. One of the drivers even waited an hour for her to return.
In some instances she would contact the drivers and promise to transfer the fare at a later date, which she never did.
Court documents stated that on Sept 9, 2015, Tan boarded an SMRT taxi at Block 601 Woodlands Drive 42 towards Limbang Shopping Centre at Choa Chu Kang where she told the driver to wait while she collected some items.
After 10 minutes, the driver called Tan who said she was returning shortly.
However, after waiting for another 30 minutes, Tan did not appear and stopped answering her phone, so he left. The fare was $42.15 and the matter was referred to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for investigation.
On another occasion on Sept 17 last year, Tan boarded a Prime taxi at the same Woodlands address towards Tiong Bahru Plaza. She asked the driver to wait at a multi-storey carpark nearby as she wanted to make a round trip back.
Tan returned after 15 minutes and asked to make stops at Yishun Street 11, Serangoon North Avenue 1 and Admiralty MRT station, before heading to Woodlands.
At Admiralty station, she again told the driver to wait at a multi-storey carpark nearby. By this time she had chalked up a fare of $105.60.
While waiting, the driver got a call from Tan saying she did not have enough money to pay the fare and promised to transfer it to him in three days. He also received a call from the taxi company telling him that Tan had said she would transfer the fare to him.
The driver contacted Tan twice on Sept 19 and Sept 20, but did not receive a response. The case was also referred to LTA for investigation.
On Tuesday in court, the LTA prosecutor asked for a compensation order and a deterrent sentence to be meted out.
He said: "From the number of offences, we see this is not a one-off incident. These drivers' livelihoods depend on the taxi fare collected, and it is a hardship not only on drivers, but also on their families."
During mitigation, Tan said she had depression and asked for leniency. She also said she only had a "few dollars" with her and asked to pay the fine in instalments.