SINGAPORE: A runner for a Taiwanese syndicate was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' jail on Thursday (Dec 27) for his role in scams that cheated victims out of S$74,000 in total.
Huang Hsiang-Wei, 26, admitted to acting as a lookout while an accomplice collected the cash from two victims-turned-mules in South Bridge Road in January this year.
The money had been transferred to these mules from three victims - a student from China aged 29, a 31-year-old Vietnamese facial therapist and a technical support specialist from China, also 31.
They had received calls from people claiming to be either Chinese or Singaporean police officers, and instructed to provide bank details as they were supposedly being investigated for money laundering or other offences.
With their bank details, syndicate members transferred cash from the victims' bank accounts to the mules, who withdrew the cash and passed it to Huang's accomplice, Taiwanese national Hsu Lai-De, 22.
Huang intended to hand the sum to a person known as "Jin Cheng Wu".
However, when he was waiting for "Jin Cheng Wu" around People's Park Complex in Chinatown, police officers on foot patrol noticed that he appeared nervous and searched him.
They found an envelope with the cash and arrested him. Hsu absconded from Singapore before police investigations began.
Investigations revealed that Huang's visit to Singapore was his first, and he had been told about a "money-making opportunity" by an online gaming acquaintance in December 2017.
He tried asking but was unable to find out what the job scope was exactly, the prosecution said. He agreed to the proposal as he was in need of money, and flew to Singapore on a flight paid by his acquaintance.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Alfie Lim asked for a sentence of two-and-a-half years' jail, saying that the crime involved a transnational syndicate from Taiwan and the "importing" of crime into Singapore.
Huang was a lookout and a runner and was the main person receiving communications directly from the syndicate, relaying information to his accomplice, Mr Lim added.
In Huang's defence, his lawyer Leon Koh said Huang "had no reason to believe it was illegal" when he accepted the job.
It was only on the day of the crimes that he found out it was illegal, and all S$74,000 was recovered, he added.
In response the prosecutor said Huang was "a pivotal conduit" providing live updates, though he acknowledged that Huang had pleaded guilty early.
After giving out his sentence, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan ordered the money to be returned to the rightful owners.