SINGAPORE: A Filipino woman conspired with a maid to set up an illegal moneylending business targeting maids from their home country.
For nine charges under the Moneylenders Act, with another 19 charges taken into consideration, 30-year-old David Cyrine Mercado was sentenced on Thursday (Jan 30) to two-and-a-half years' jail and a fine of S$270,000.
If she cannot pay the fine, she will have to serve another nine months' jail in default.
When they were caught, they had 18 borrowers and S$88,607.50 worth of live loans yet to be repaid to them.
Mercado earned a profit of about S$73,000 from the loans and paid interest, while her accomplice earned about S$36,000.
The court heard that at the time of the offences, Mercado was an IT analyst programmer working in Maybank. She was working on a project for the bank under a company called Solderfield, the bank said.
She rented a room in Punggol, which she shared with her co-accused, 42-year-old Valino Marianne Pasco, a Filipino domestic helper.
In late 2016, Pasco's friends - who were also working as maids in Singapore - approached Pasco to ask if she knew of anyone who would be willing to extend loans to them.
Pasco then told her roommate Mercado that her Filipino friends were looking for loans, and were willing to pay 20 to 25 per cent interest, which was the market rate.
Mercado agreed to offer loans with a monthly interest rate of 15 per cent, and the pair agreed that Mercado would provide the capital sum and keep a running record of borrowers and sums borrowed, while Pasco liaised with borrowers.
They also agreed that Mercado would keep two thirds of the interest earned, or 10 per cent of the loan sum, while Pasco kept a third, or 5 per cent of the loan sum.
They had other detailed agreements on the amounts of loans, which would be repaid on a monthly basis.
They ran this unlicensed moneylending business from late 2016 until they were arrested in September 2019, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kang Jia Hui.
On Sep 3, 2019, one of the maids made a police report saying she had taken a loan from Pasco and had to pay various sums which she felt was "too much".
The maid also said she had received complaints from other Filipino friends that Pasco was asking them to pay "a lot of money for their respective loans with her".
Pasco was arrested on Sep 17, 2019, and Mercado arrested later that day.
A sum of S$2,500 was recovered from the bedroom the two women shared in their flat. Mercado had used most of the earnings as capital for new loans that were extended to the maids.
The maids in the proceeded charges borrowed amounts of between S$500 and S$2,500 from the moneylenders, and drew monthly salaries of between S$600 and S$675.
Pasco was convicted and sentenced in December to two years and three months' jail and a fine of S$270,000.
The penalties for carrying on an unlicensed moneylending business in Singapore are a maximum jail term of four years and a fine of between S$30,000 and S$300,000. Male offenders can also be given caning.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with Maybank's clarification that David Cyrine Mercado had been working on a project for the bank as a contractor under another company.