Taiwanese man jailed 6.5 years for role in nearly $1M police impersonation scam

Taiwanese man jailed 6.5 years for role in nearly $1M police impersonation scam
Singapore state courts (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

A Taiwanese man who was sent to Singapore to be a runner for a transnational syndicate that ran a police impersonation scam was jailed six and a half years on Monday (4 June).

Huang Ying-Chun, 52, collected a total of $957,000 on behalf of the syndicate over 13 occasions in two weeks in 2017. The victims who were cheated by the syndicate were aged between 50 and 72 years old.

Huang committed the offences together with five others – Cheng Peng-Yu, Hsieh Teng-Chia and Chen You-Jeng from Taiwan, Li Li from China, and Long Say Piaw from Singapore – who were all part of the syndicate. All have been arrested but Huang is the first to have been dealt with by the court.

On Monday, Huang pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to collect and hand over cash which were benefits from criminal conduct, a breach under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

Huang was first approached by someone known to him as “Ah Fei” to work for him in June last year. He was tasked to collect and hand over “documents” in Singapore and was to be paid NT$60,000 (S$2,700) for his role.

Huang realised after his first collection that the “documents” were actually money and became aware that the money were proceeds of crime.

He arrived in Singapore on 21 June last year with Cheng and received instructions from syndicate members who were in Singapore. He committed the offences between 22 June and 6 July 2017.

According to court documents, the victims would receive a call by the “police” who claimed they were investigating money-laundering activities. The “police” would then implicate the victims in money-laundering and claim they must cooperate with the “police” in order to clear their name.

The victims would be threatened with punishment if they did not hand over their bank account login details and password, which the “police” claimed were necessary to verify their identities. The various sums would be transferred to the accounts of “involved parties”, who would in turn withdraw the money and hand them to Huang.

Huang would hand various sums over to Cheng and other syndicate members, or place them at several locations including a telephone booth or coffeeshop toilets for the syndicate members to pick them up.

Of the $957,000 scammed from the victims, the police only managed to recover $1,050 from a Leong Chie Kong, a 56-year-old Singaporean who had received the sum as a token of appreciation from Huang on two occasions after Huang successfully collected $150,000 from him. Leong was listed as one of the “involved parties”.

According to the prosecution, 487 police impersonation scam cases involving $23 million were reported at the end of 2016.

“Huang was in financial difficulties, and he was promised a reward of NT$60,000 (S$2,680.89) per month. His air ticket was paid for by the syndicate and the syndicate also gave him S$446.82 as travelling expenses,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting.

The prosecutor noted that the syndicate deliberately exploited those who had a fear of authority, particularly the elderly, who “feared criminal prosecution or genuinely wished to assist and cooperate with law enforcement authorities”.

She sought a jail sentence of between 6 and a half years and seven years for Huang, who is unrepresented.

In mitigation, Huang said he was in financial difficulties when he committed the offences and was supporting his aged parents in Taiwan.

“I wanted to make money, that’s why I came to Singapore. Eventually, I did not receive any money for all that I had done,” he said through a Mandarin interpreter.

“For the sake of my aging parents, I hope you will impose the shortest jail sentence so that I can go back to Taiwan to take care of them,” he said.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong noted that Huang had come specially to Singapore to commit the offences. He said that there was a need to send a strong signal to would-be offenders that they cannot commit the offences and “get away lightly”.