SINGAPORE: A recalcitrant offender who has been committing property-related offences since 1979 was sentenced to seven years' preventive detention on Thursday (Jul 25) for selling bogus hotel stays and rentals on Carousell.
John Leong Kim Onn, 55, pleaded guilty to seven counts of cheating, with another 15 charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that Leong lived in Jalan Kukoh, near Havelock Road, and was working odd jobs when he hatched a plan to cheat people by using online marketplace Carousell.
He set up an account with the username "chingchaitioho" and advertised room rentals and hotel stays on the website, even though he could not rent out any rooms or provide hotel stays.
A total of 22 buyers were deceived into transferring him a total of about S$9,100 as deposits for room rentals and payments for hotel stays between September 2017 and December 2017.
When the deals fell through, some of the buyers lodged police reports using his Carousell username, mobile number and bank account details, and Leong was traced by the Singapore Police Force.
He had advertised rentals for his own flat, and luxurious hotel stays at places like Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. After receiving the money from the victims, he would concoct stories and excuses and become uncontactable.
In one case, he deceived a man into paying him S$700 as a deposit to rent a room in his Jalan Kukoh flat.
After the transfer was made in late September 2017, Leong told the "tenant" that he could move in only two months later as there were ongoing renovation works.
Three months later, Leong told the victim that he could not rent the room after all and would refund him, but gave him the slip.
The man then filed a police report.
In another instance, Leong falsely advertised a three-day-two-night stay at Marina Bay Sands for early December 2017.
A woman responded to his Carousell and transferred him a total of S$600 as payment for the hotel stay.
However, on Dec 1, Leong told the woman that he was "stuck in Taiwan" and asked her to postpone her hotel stay.
When the woman asked for a refund, Leong agreed to do so but did not pay her back and could not be contacted.
The woman similarly lodged a police report.
Leong repaid the money to the victims by March this year, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez.
PROSECUTOR POINTS OUT LEONG'S STRING OF OFFENCES
She asked the judge to impose either 10 years' corrective training or preventive detention.
Preventive detention is a harsh punishment that places a recalcitrant offender in jail for seven to 20 years in order to protect the public from the offender.
Ms Fernandez told the court that Leong has reoffended many times before, most recently being sentenced to 10 years' corrective training in 2002.
He had been given the term for orchestrating a room rental scam then, and was using a similar modus operandi in this case.
The court had called for suitability reports for both corrective training and preventive detention, and Leong was found fit for both.
"The accused has a propensity for criminal behaviour," said the prosecutor. "The accused's attitudes and orientation show that he had an attitude supportive of crime ... as a quick way to meet his financial needs."
Leong shook his head in the dock as Ms Fernandez said this.
"He belongs to a group of prisoners with a 30 per cent probability of recidivism within two years of release," continued the prosecutor.
Defence lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan said his client intends to appeal. Leong was released on bail of S$40,000 pending his appeal against the sentence.
For each count of cheating, he could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.