SINGAPORE: Jover Chew, the owner of now-defunct mobile phone shop Mobile Air, was sentenced to 33 months' jail and ordered to pay a fine of S$2,000 on Monday (Nov 30), for cheating 26 victims out of S$16,599 over a period of 10 months last year.
District Judge Siva Shanmugam called Chew's scheme to cheat unsuspecting customers "audacious" and "elaborate", noting that the offences were clearly premeditated "to the extent of anticipating potential disputes and possible civil and criminal sanctions".
Chew had persisted in his criminal conduct despite frequent visits from the police attending to distress calls from victims of Chew and his four co-accused, said the judge. Chew had also been "unperturbed" by letters from the authorities, including the Consumers Association of Singapore and the Small Claims Tribunal, he added.
Judge Shanmugam also considered several aggravating factors in Chew's case, particularly his "exploitation of the veneer of legitimacy provided by the physical presence of (his shop) to entrap unwary patrons", and for using fraudulent documents to "both reassure the victims of the authenticity of the dealings as well as to deal with the aftermath of potential recourse sought by the victims".
The judge also made mention of Chew's choice of victims - mostly foreigners and foreign workers, who "would be least likely to assert their rights in Singapore". Judge Shanmugam also said that Chew's actions would have had "an adverse effect on Singapore's efforts to promote itself as a retail hub", pointing to reports in both local and international media highlighting to the public the need for caution when dealing with errant local retailers.
On Nov 16, Chew, 33, pleaded guilty to a total of 12 charges: 10 counts of cheatingand one count each for criminal intimidation and intentional distress.Another 16 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Chew's actions came to light in November 2014, after a video of a Vietnamese tourist begging Chew for a refund went viral. Mr Pham Van Thoai - a factory worker who made about S$200 monthly - paid S$950 for an iPhone 6 at Mobile Air, but was told he could only get the phone if he paid an additional warranty fee of S$1,500. Chew was not charged over this incident.
Chew and his employees also made another customer pick up S$1,010 in coins off his shop floor. The amount was what the Small Claims Tribunal had ordered Mobile Air to refund the customer after the shop overcharged on the price of an iPhone 6 Plus.
Four of Chew’s former employees have been handed jail terms of between four and 14 months.
In a hearing earlier this month, Chew’s lawyer told the court that his client was undergoing treatment for depression. Chew’s wife had also initiated divorce proceedings, his lawyer added. Chew was also taking care of his parents and servicing massive debts incurred by his elder brother, the court heard.
Chew's mother and godmother were in court and spent a few teary minutes with him after his sentencing.