SINGAPORE: A man accused of cheating multiple victims of about S$185,000 for masks he never delivered will remain in remand after his request to have no cash components in his bail was rejected.
Daryl Cheong Zhi Yong, 28, is the first person in Singapore to be charged with cheating mask buyers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
He is accused of cheating six people of over S$185,000 for more than 900 boxes of surgical face masks.
Cheong, who asked to be granted his bail requests in order to take care of his mother during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been remanded for almost two months.
A newly appointed Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) lawyer urged District Judge Terence Tay on Thursday (Apr 9) to review his current bail, which is S$15,000 in property bail on top of S$5,000 in cash bail.
Cheong had previously said that his mother could not afford the S$5,000 cash.
Lawyer Pramnath Vijayajumar asked the judge to revoke the current S$20,000 bail and impose a S$15,000 property bail with no cash component.
In the alternative, he asked for the current S$20,000 bail to be full property bail.
NEWLY ASSIGNED LAWYER TRIES TO DO AWAY WITH CASH BAIL
"This is a CLAS matter," said Mr Vijayakumar. "Daryl was assigned (to me) under CLAS. He is of limited means and he has informed me that any likely bailor would most probably be his mother."
He said Cheong's mother is unable to raise the S$5,000 cash bail, adding that Cheong had previous brushes with the law with his mother as his bailor.
His mother had also ensured that he had turned up when required at all previous matters, said the lawyer.
READ: First man charged for cheating mask buyers gets more charges; 6 victims and S$185,000 now involved
On top of the mask cheating cases involving about S$185,000, Cheong is also accused of cheating a man over mobile phone plans involving about S$20,000.
The lawyer said that about S$136,000 of the total S$205,000 figure across all types of charges have been seized and is with the police.
Cheong intends to take up a job if granted bail, and repay the victims the rest of the amount, added the defence counsel.
READ: Man charged with cheating victim of S$175,000 for 500 cartons of masks, says he is a victim himself
However, the judge questioned Cheong on what job he had that could raise S$68,000 in a matter of months.
Cheong said he is a service agent for a funeral company and can make quite a lot of money.
"Also because of the virus ... I can come out, take care of my mum. She's also not feeling well," he said.
The prosecutor objected to any amendment of the bail, pointing out that there was no evidence that Cheong is gainfully employed in the funeral industry.
He said that the court in previous hearings found that the cash component of the bail was necessary because of factors including the many serious offences with high penalties, a very large sum of money involved and a likely lengthy jail term if Cheong is convicted.
"The accused claims that he needs to have bail posted so he can go out to work in order to make full restitution," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jeremy Bin.
"However, police have recovered S$136,000 of the total S$205,260 involved, yet the accused does not want to release the recovered monies back to the victims and has indicated that he intends to contest the return. This runs completely counter to his claim that he intends to make restitution to the victims."
The defence lawyer said he was only just assigned the case, and so he was unaware of this apparent contradiction which was indicated at a previous hearing.
The judge said the bail quantum was pegged "at a very appropriate level" and cannot see how it is unreasonable.
He rejected Cheong's application but told the defence lawyer that he could file for a further bail review if any new grounds arose.
A pre-trial conference has been set for the case later this month.