SINGAPORE: A 75-year-old woman was sentenced to four years and nine months in jail on Wednesday (Oct 11) for cheating a close friend of S$646,900 in savings.
Lim Siew Har was found guilty of 12 counts of cheating after a 14-day trial in July.
The court heard that Lim met Madam Leow Boon Tee, a housewife in her 70s, through the latter’s brother, Lim’s long-term partner whom she has lived with for three to four decades.
The women bonded over cooking Nyonya dishes, and Lim described her friendship with Mdm Leow as “quite close,” deputy public prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez said.
However, Lim, an undischarged bankrupt driven by “pure greed", tricked Mdm Leow into handing over "staggering amounts" in cash and cheques over 10 months in 2011, Ms Fernandez said.
The money was purportedly for legal and license transfer fees to “operate” six Singapore Pools outlets at Marina Bay Sands, Orchard, Toa Payoh, Chai Chee, Bedok and Clementi, the prosecutor added.
Lim’s criminal record dates back to 1981, when she was first convicted of cheating. She was jailed in 1983 and 2003 for a host of cheating, forgery and criminal breach of trust offences, as well as bankruptcy-related offences, according to the prosecutor.
She sought a sentence of at least 60 months, arguing that Lim remained “wholly unremorseful” for abusing her friend’s trust to wipe out her retirement fund.
Mdm Leow is “distraught” that she will never get her money back, the prosecutor told the court. Lim used the money to pay off debts and gamble.
In sentencing Lim on Wednesday, District Judge Lorraine Ho described the case as a cautionary tale. “In Singapore, being the licensee of a Singapore Pools outlet is akin to have the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs, where returns are most certainly guaranteed,” she said.
“One should never throw caution to the wind and let one’s guard down in exchange for a windfall,” the judge added.
Although Judge Ho said it “gives (her) a heavy heart” to send a 75-year-old to prison when “she should be spending her twilight years … with her family", she said Lim “brought this upon herself”.
“Rather than learning from (her past), she has become emboldened,” Judge Ho said, noting that Lim carried on her elaborate scam for close to a year and remained unremorseful.
“(Lim) cannot expect the court to be sympathetic towards her merely because of her old age … such sympathy should not be reserved for recalcitrant offenders such as Lim,” Judge Ho said.
Lim is on bail of S$75,000 pending an appeal hearing.
For cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years per charge and fined.