SINGAPORE: Former tour guide Yang Yin’s six-year jail term for stealing S$1.1 million from an elderly widow was increased to nine years on Friday (Mar 3) by the High Court.
Coupled with a 26-month sentence for fraud, the Chinese national will now spend 11 years and two months behind bars.
“This is a case where a relatively young man cleverly manipulated an elderly and socially isolated woman because he saw her wealth and learned about her vulnerabilities,” said Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang.
“He eased his way into her life … and into her bank accounts to siphon off her assets. He knew about her love of art and was able to capitalise on this knowledge to conceal the illegal outflow of her money.
“Despite this, he claimed audaciously and shamelessly that he was a caring man, looking after the needs of the victim as though she were his grandmother,” the judge said.
A six-year jail term “does not reflect the abhorrent nature” of the crime, he added.
HE WOULD HAVE BECOME A MILLIONAIRE “MANY TIMES OVER”
The victim, 89-year-old Singaporean Chung Khin Chun, had given Yang control of her assets - worth millions - trusting him to use the money to look after her.
But Yang, 42, had other plans.
He misappropriated S$500,000 in 2010 and another S$600,000 in 2012, and claimed he used the money to buy Madam Chung six paintings, including one titled Horse Drinking Water by renowned Chinese painter Xu Beihong.
It was a fake, which Yang had bought for S$200.
The other five paintings - worth S$600,000, according to Yang - were valued by experts to be worth less than S$3,000 in total.
He had also emptied Madam Chung’s bank account. In early 2010, the widow had S$2.7 million in liquid assets. But by August 2014, shortly before Yang’s arrest, the account contained less than S$10,000.
Madam Chung was none the wiser, and Yang had “spirited” the money out of Singapore, out of reach of the authorities, before his offences came to light.
Yang’s refusal to truthfully account for the missing millions show a total lack of remorse, Judge Tay said. “This can only be due to his desire to prevent the tracing of the funds.”
The judge also pointed out Yang “would have become a millionaire many times over” and taken all of the widow’s assets, including her Gerald Crescent bungalow sitting on a 31,000 sq ft plot of land with a 999-year lease.
Judge Tay said Yang’s offences “were part of an elaborate scheme encompassing all the earthly possessions of (the widow). Clearly if her possessions had gone to (Yang), they would have elevated him to such heights of wealth that he would not need to work for the rest of his life”.
“ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE AT ITS MOST EGREGIOUS”
The prosecution, led by Chief Prosecutor of Financial and Technology Crime Tan Ken Hwee, called the case of Madam Chung “elder financial abuse at its most egregious”.
The prosecutor called for Yang’s sentence to be increased to 10 years, citing the need for “new precedents”, given the expected increase in crimes involving the elderly as Singapore experiences a “silver tsunami”.
Yang’s lawyer Irving Choh defended the six-year sentence, saying the sentencing judge had fairly considered the aggravating factors in the case.
He also urged the High Court not to treat Yang’s case as “special” because it has garnered “so much media attention”.