SINGAPORE: The de facto director of a second-hand car dealership was sentenced to seven years’ jail on Wednesday (Jun 15) for a scam involving S$3.2 million and 89 victims.
Poh Chee Tiong, 61, pleaded guilty to 33 charges, including 27 counts of cheating, five of forgery and one for running the dealership, Cars Today, while an undischarged bankrupt.
Another 135 charges were taken into consideration during Poh’s sentencing on Wednesday morning.
A "SYSTEMATIC AND ELABORATE" SCAM
The court heard that Poh had instructed his wife to incorporate Cars Today in March 2013. While she was listed as the dealership’s sole shareholder and registered director, Poh was the “controlling mind” of the firm’s day-to-day operations and finances, Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew told the court.
In order to grow the business, Poh cooked up a “systematic and elaborate” scam which netted him S$3,162,965.37 in two years. The scam targeted three groups of victims - buyers, finance companies and sellers.
Instead of transferring a car’s registered ownership to its buyer, Poh would submit an inflated invoice to a finance company to apply for a loan, using the car as collateral.
He also lied to sellers, convincing them that the dealership would take care of any outstanding loan relating to the car.
In this way, Poh duped 71 buyers into thinking they owned the car, when in fact the car’s ownership had not been transferred from either the seller or finance company.
Fourteen sellers were also taken in by the scam, as were four finance companies which disbursed loans for hundreds of thousands of dollars based on inflated invoices presented to them by Poh, the DPP said.
In one instance in December 2013, a 54-year-old buyer parted with S$146,000 for a second-hand BMW. Instead of transferring ownership to the buyer, Poh transferred it to Kenso, a finance company. Kenso gave Cars Today a loan of S$122,000 as a result.
When the victim found out Kenso was the registered owner of the car, he paid another S$73,277 for ownership to be rightfully transferred to him.
Poh also roped in his son to forge invoices, marking up prices of cars before submitting them to finance companies, so Cars Today would receive larger loans.
Pushing for a seven-year sentence for Poh, DPP Yew said the serial cheat had caused “heavy losses and great inconvenience” to multiple victims.
The DPP also noted Poh had been well aware that he was prohibited by law to manage a company as an undischarged bankrupt. Yet, he circumvented this by making use of his wife to incorporate Cars Today while he actively managed it. Poh’s wife and son have both been fined for their part in the scam.
In his defence, Poh’s lawyer Ranadhir Gupta argued that his client had not pocketed the millions, but put the money towards growing his business.
For cheating, Poh could have been sentenced to up to 10 years’ jail for each charge and fined.