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Ex-property agent jailed two years for role in rental scam

A former property agent was given a two year jail sentence by a district court for being part in a rental scam that targeted foreign nationals.

SINGAPORE: A former property agent was on Thursday jailed for two years by a district court for his part in a rental scam that targeted foreign nationals.

41-year-old Jim Tan Kuan Hui, who was unrepresented, pleaded guilty to three charges which involved some S$14,000. Five other similar cheating charges -- also involving foreign nationals -- were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Tan also admitted to stealing his girlfriend's Omega watch, worth some S$2,900, as well as her pendant.

The court heard that Tan was introduced to a co-accused -- 36-year-old Jeffrey Tan -- by a person known only as Ah Lai.

Ah Lai had asked the former property agent to conduct an open house viewing of Jeffrey Tan's HDB unit in Jurong East to potential tenants, as he owed money to licensed moneylenders. Ah Lai then hatched a plan for both men to collect deposits, advance rent and agent's fees from prospective tenants who came to view the unit.

They would then tell the interested parties that the money would be returned to them if they did not succeed in securing the unit.

However, both men were aware that there was, in fact, no intention to rent out the unit, and that Ah Lai was not going to return the money received.

The ex-property agent would then get clients to view the unit, collect a deposit and advance rent from them.

For his role in the scam, he would pocket amounts of between S$100 and S$250 as payment.

The victims suspected that something was amiss when they found that there were other people already staying in the unit. They asked for a refund, but did not get their money.

In pressing for a deterrent sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus said that Tan had shown persistence and boldness in carrying out the scam, and that he had abused his position of trust as a property agent.

"There was deliberate deception and pre-meditation to swindle the victims, and the amount was not insignificant," he added.

It is understood that Ah Lai is still at large, while Jeffrey Tan will be dealt with separately.

In passing sentence on Thursday, the District Judge also pointed out that Tan had "shamefully victimised guileless foreign nationals."

He could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for cheating. For theft, Tan could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.

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