SINGAPORE: In the span of about 10 months and with 13 accomplices, a full-time national serviceman cheated about 90 victims out of S$51,000 over tickets on Carousell and telco plans.
Between May 2018 and March 2019, 20-year-old Koh Jun Xiong and his co-accused cheated the victims of cash in four conspiracies over tickets to Universal Studios Singapore and Bruno Mars concerts and telco scams.
Koh pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Apr 21) to 30 charges of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat, with another 65 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
His 13 co-conspirators are aged between 18 and 24 and were either unemployed, studying or serving national service at the time.
Koh met co-accused, jobless 20-year-old Malaysian Lai Jun Hong, through a friend in 2017.
They grew close and in April 2018, Koh revealed to Lai his plan to cheat Carousell buyers into deceiving them that he would deliver USS or Bruno Mars concert tickets for cash.
Koh promised to share the proceeds if Lai helped him with his scams.
THE TWO CAROUSELL CONSPIRACIES
Thus began the first Carousell conspiracy, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Koh Mun Keong and Matthew Choo.
Both young men created several accounts on Carousell using fictitious particulars, and Koh approached seven friends to use their bank accounts to receive the proceeds.
In return, he offered them commissions. Koh and Lai posted ads on Carousell for the sale of these tickets, with Koh controlling 22 accounts and possessing access to five accounts by Lai.
In this way, they cheated victims into transferring money to the provided bank accounts for tickets they never received.
In the second half of 2018, Koh entered into a second conspiracy with another co-accused, 20-year-old Fabian Lau Sze Hao.
The scam was largely the same, involving USS tickets sold via Carousell.
However, this time, Koh and Lau met the victims and handed them bogus tickets in return for cash or bank transfers.
Once the money was in, the pair cut off all communications with the victims.
THE TWO TELCO CONSPIRACIES
Koh expanded his cheating ways to local telecommunication service providers Singtel and Starhub in late 2018, in the first telco conspiracy.
He roped in two others to cheat victims into signing up for mobile phone lines that came with packaged mobile phone sets.
They lied that the subscription bills would be paid for on their behalf, or that the victims would be paid for signing up for the phone lines.
They then took the phones from the victims while saddling them with the phone lines and cutting off communications.
Koh set up a second telco conspiracy in early 2019, looping in 20-year-old NSF Syabil Haque Ashanul Haque, who said he could look for targets to sign up for new mobile phone lines bundled with handsets.
Together, they lied to victims that they had "insiders" in the telcos who could help terminate newly subscribed mobile lines without any termination fees.
Syabil roped in another party: 19-year-old Wallace Por Ye Kai, who had a wide network of acquaintances that they plucked victims from.
A fourth man, 22-year-old Tan Xing Yu, agreed to be the runner, collecting mobile phones and SIM cards and liaising with Por and Syabil.
The victims were induced into signing up for new mobile phone lines with packaged mobile phones, and Koh would buy the phones and SIM cards from them at prices lower than their market values.
The police received at least 66 reports from multiple victims between Jun 19 and Jun 27 in 2018 over the USS and Bruno Mars concert tickets, and Koh was eventually nabbed.
None of the S$51,000 has been returned, the court heard.
PROSECUTOR ASKS FOR REFORMATIVE TRAINING SUITABILITY REPORT
The prosecutor said that Koh had been previously sentenced to probation for unlicensed moneylending, and had committed some of the current offences while on probation.
He requested for a report assessing Koh's suitability for reformative training, but reserved his position until the report was in.
Defence lawyers Anil Sandhu and Mohamed Arshad asked for both RTC and probation reports, saying that rehabilitation is the primary sentencing consideration.
They said Koh had pleaded guilty and taken steps "to dissociate with the people who served as a bad influence on him and has cut off all contact".
Koh fell into bad company with Yu, who introduced him to "unfavourable friends" heavily involved in nightlife and alcohol consumption, said the lawyers.
HE CAVED TO PEER PRESSURE: DEFENCE
"Eventually, Koh caved in to this peer pressure and began to spend excessively to keep up with Yu and his friends."
They added that Koh's girlfriend "expected expensive gifts as well and would also ask him for money for her own expenditure".
"Koh did not have the finances to sustain this lifestyle and this was the reason why he committed the offences," said the lawyers.
He has also been following up with the National Addiction Management Service at the Institute of Mental Health since July 2016 and has been prescribed anti-depressants.
While the lawyers conceded that Koh had reoffended while on probation, they said it would be "unduly harsh to consider this 20-year-old as a 'hardened' or 'recalcitrant' offender as this is only the second time he is being sentenced by the court".
The judge called for a reformative training suitability report as well as a report on Koh's probation progress and adjourned sentencing to Apr 29.