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Singapore

Funeral director gets jail for unauthorised credit card charges of S$356,000, attempted witness tampering

SINGAPORE: A funeral director was sentenced to four years and three months' jail on Monday (Aug 8) for making unauthorised credit card charges worth more than S$356,000.

As authorities closed in on Casper Ang, 34, he also tried to interfere with investigations by getting a police officer to pass information to a witness.

He pleaded guilty to 11 charges of unauthorised access to computer material, cheating, forgery, transferring criminal proceeds, attempting to obstruct justice, managing companies while bankrupt and making a false police report.

The prosecution called Ang, also known as Hong Weiliang, a "varied and persistent offender". Another 17 charges against him were considered for sentencing. 

Ang operated Singapore Funeral Supplies during the offences. He also managed Ang Brothers Funeral Services from 2019 to 2020 and medical supplier CT Care from March to May 2020, while bankrupt.

ATTEMPTED MORE THAN 450 TRANSACTIONS

The court heard that Ang made the credit card transactions on a payment terminal that was issued to Singapore Funeral Supplies by the company First Data. The terminal could process payments without a physical card.

Between August and December 2018, Ang received credit card details - minimally, the card number and expiry date - from four suspected accomplices.

These were Paul Wee Lian Heng, 67, and three individuals operating online as "TorCat", "Federation Russia" or "FiRuC", and "Libean".

Wee has been charged and will to return to court for a pre-trial conference in August. The other individuals have not been identified. Ang did not know their identities but believed them to be Russian.

Ang met Wee around August 2018, and was subsequently contacted by the other individuals over Telegram.

Using details provided by his four partners, Ang tried to process 452 credit card transactions, of which 114 transactions valued at more than S$356,000 were approved.

The value of the remaining declined transactions was estimated at about S$1.4 million. All the affected cardholders are believed to be foreign.

Ang knew it was likely that the card details were obtained illegitimately but did not verify with the cardholders that the transactions were authorised, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Ryan Lim.

He earned at least S$100,000 from his involvement in the scheme by keeping some of the proceeds from the successful transactions.

First Data suffered a loss of more than S$275,000 after receiving requests for chargebacks, or reversals of payment, which it refunded to the cardholders.

The offences were discovered after First Data received many complaints from cardholders

CHEATED HIS SISTER-IN-LAW

To benefit from the scheme, Ang needed to withdraw the money from Singapore Funeral Supplies' bank account.

Around October 2018, Ang's wife and sister-in-law took away his access to the company's finances as they were concerned about its debt

Ang's sister-in-law took over the company's chequebook and required Ang to provide copies of supplier invoices before she would release a blank cheque to him.

From October to December 2018, Ang therefore provided false invoices to obtain 13 blank cheques from his sister-in-law.

He used them to withdraw more than S$265,000 from the company's bank account, which came from the successful transactions.

He also admitted to passing criminal proceeds to Wee by cash or bank transfer, and to people acting on behalf of TorCat, FiRuC and Libean, usually by meeting them in Ang Mo Kio.

TRIED TO TAMPER WITH WITNESS

After Ang's arrest in April 2019, he lied to investigators that his accomplice was a man who had since died.

He did this to frustrate investigations and shift the blame away from himself. In fact, Ang had previously handled the funeral of the man he named, and they did not actually know each other.

Ang gave investigators the phone number of a witness he said could verify that he and this man were acquainted.

While Ang was remanded for investigations on or around Apr 21, 2019, he met Quak Tiong Beng, then a staff sergeant who had been with the police since 1999.

Quak, 42, recognised Ang as he followed Ang on social media and had previously met him when he was in remand for another matter in May 2017.

They spoke, and Ang informed Quak that he was under investigation.

When Quak walked past Ang's cell two days later, Ang asked if he could help him make a phone call to the witness.

He asked Quak to tell the witness that if an officer showed him a photo, he should say that he had seen the person before but could not confirm who he was.

Quak helped Ang to call the witness. Unknown to both men, the witness was being interviewed by the investigation officer when the call went through.

The witness picked up the call in front of the officer and listened to it on speaker mode as Quak conveyed the instructions. Quak was then investigated.

He pleaded guilty to helping Ang pervert the course of justice and was sentenced to five months' jail in June last year.

The prosecution asked for four years and 11 months' jail, arguing that Ang's offences undermined the financial infrastructure and integrity of police investigations.

Defence counsel Amarick Gill asked for a shorter jail sentence, contending that the sentence should not be calculated solely on the basis of the high amounts of money involved.

Ang has appealed against his sentence, which is stayed pending the outcome.

Source: CNA/dv(rj)

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