SINGAPORE: In 2014, three men cheated 182 victims of S$6,163,772 in a span of seven months before fleeing to China as new millionaires. The only one of the trio to return, Koh Chek Seng, was sentenced to 10 years’ jail on Friday (Feb 17).
The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to 20 charges, with another 180 taken into consideration during sentencing.
He admitted to setting up a car dealership - Volks Auto Pte Ltd - in April 2014 with accomplices Alvin Loo Mun Yu and Jason Koh Chi Kang, both 36.
The trio never intended to run Volks Auto as a legitimate business, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ng Jean Ting said. The men used their showroom at 50, MacPherson Road as a front to fool customers into handing over deposits worth tens of thousands of dollars for cars they would never own.
They conned 182 victims into handing over S$6,163,772 between May 29 and Dec 7, 2014, making the Volks Auto scam - as it came to be known - “the largest fraudulent scheme in the car industry to date”, DPP Ng said.
To create the illusion of a legitimate business, Koh arranged for four cars - including a Mercedes and a Porsche - to be displayed in the showroom. The trio also hired salesmen, set up corporate bank accounts and issued sales agreements bearing Volks Auto’s company logo.
DPP Ng said the trio “were fully aware” their scheme “would unravel at some point, since no cars would be delivered”. So they used “low prices to maximise the deposits they could collect in the window of opportunity they had”.
The men offered cars to customers at prices too good to be true. “Given the prices of Certificates of Entitlement at the time, the profit margins were too slim for the business to be viable,” DPP Ng said. Unfortunately, the cheating trio were the only ones who knew this.
Loo, who masterminded the scheme and was the sole director and shareholder of Volks Auto, handed Koh at least S$450,000 for his part in the scam.
Koh converted part of the cash - about S$351,000 - into casino chips at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa. The day before he fled to China, Koh bought S$71,000 worth of casino chips at MBS. He also deposited cash totalling S$100,000 into two personal bank accounts.
Having cleaned out the company’s bank accounts, Loo left Singapore on Dec 5, 2014. Koh and the other accomplice, Jason Koh, fled on Dec 12, 2014. Clearly, “their departure was calculated and coordinated”, DPP Ng said.
Koh returned on Dec 23, 2015, after about a year of being away. He was arrested at the airport.
Defence lawyer Cheryl Ng, who represented Koh pro bono, said Koh “should be given credit” for returning to “face the music”.
Ms Ng also pointed out it was Loo who “ran the show” and that Koh received only S$450,000 out of S$6,163,772, or just 7.3 per cent of the trio’s profits.
Loo and the other Koh remain at large.