SINGAPORE: For over a decade, a Malaysian fortune teller and her Singaporean husband, operating out of their flat in Ang Mo Kio, cheated nine victims of more than S$800,000 by selling them talismans said to be imbued with “special powers” to “fix their problems”.
One victim alone was tricked into spending S$247,888 on those talismans.
Ng Kim Yew, 62, told her clients that each talisman had been “written on, drawn and chanted over” by her own Thai and Tibetan spiritual masters, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Charis Low and Tay Jingxi.
But was in fact Ng's husband Ong Choon Lin, 67, who wrote on each talisman, and “took steps to make sure that none of Ng’s roughly 300 followers in Singapore would find out,” prosecutors said.
For cheating, Ng was on Monday (Jul 24) sentenced to five years and nine months in jail, while her husband was given four years and seven months.
They were convicted of 20 charges earlier this month after a 23-day trial. Ng had another 23 charges taken into consideration during sentencing on Monday, while Ong had 18.
The total amount cheated from victims in Ng's case was S$816,868, and in Ong's case it was S$734,068 from the same victims.
Prosecutors had pressed for stiff sentences - six years jail for Ng and five years for Ong - based on multiple aggravating factors present in the case, including the length of the scam which went on for a decade, and the huge amount of money involved.
Ng deserved a higher sentence because she was “the face of the scam”, prosecutors said, interacting with clients and cleverly manipulating them into handing over thousands of dollars, which she received in her bank account.
Both Ng and Ong pleaded for leniency, although the couple claimed they are “innocent” and that the prosecution had been “very unfair” to them. Ong said he was the victim in this case. “I don’t know what offence I committed,” he told the court.
In jailing the couple, District Judge Lee Poh Choo said the couple had perpetrated a “clever scam”. For 10 years, Ng “hoodwinked” her followers, who trusted her, Judge Lee said.
Ng “cultivated good relationships (before she) reeled them into her web … (and) got them to pay for one talisman after another,” the judge said.
Despite claiming to treat one of her clients "like a daughter," Ng did not care that she was causing her and other clients financial hardship by arranging for them to borrow money to buy more talismans, the judge noted.
The judge also said the couple showed “no remorse at all” and had made “baseless and malicious” accusations against the victims and the police in conducting their defence.
For cheating, the couple could have been jailed for up to 10 years per charge, and fined.