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Singapore

‘Habitual swindler’ posed as rich Korean heir to buy properties, made boyfriend lie to the police

‘Habitual swindler’ posed as rich Korean heir to buy properties, made boyfriend lie to the police

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man posed as a wealthy Korean heir to view and buy properties, writing cheques for more than S$2 million even though he knew they would bounce.

Jerald Low Jing Yong, 27, wanted to use the options to purchase to boast to his friends that he could afford expensive property. As part of the act, he dyed his hair and took on the name “Park Joon Hyung”.

It was just one in a long series of ruses by Low to project an image of wealth in order to take advantage of multiple victims around him. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Mar 16) to 16 charges, mostly of cheating, with another 35 taken into consideration for sentencing.

Low’s victims included romantic partners he met online, friends and employees. His “web of lies” caused his victims to lose more than S$150,000, and resulted in one of them suffering a relapse of bipolar disorder, said the prosecution.

As police investigations closed in around him, Low devised a way to evade responsibility, convincing his boyfriend to take the blame for his crimes.

As part of this, he falsely alleged rape and sexual assault by his boyfriend, causing the police to waste significant resources investigating his claims.

District Judge Soh Tze Bian called Low “a habitual swindler with no remorse” who had planned each of his offences. He was sentenced to 67 months’ jail, fined S$1,800 and banned from driving until a year after his release from prison.

“PARK JOON HYUNG”

Low devised a plan to buy properties sometime in May 2019, when he was introduced to a property agent. 

He pretended to be a rich Korean man called Park Joon Hyung, and the agent took Low to view various properties over three days.

Low issued 13 cheques for at least seven properties, with developers like Keppel Bay and Angullia Development among the payees.

However, the property sellers informed Low and his agent that the cheques could not be cleared, and eventually released the properties for other potential buyers.

SCAMMED HIS ROMANTIC PARTNERS

The bulk of Low’s proceeded charges involved telco scams, where he persuaded victims to sign up for phone lines by lying to them that he would pay the fees. He often claimed he needed the numbers for work purposes.

In reality, Low wanted his victims to hand over the mobile phones from the contract plans so he could sell them for quick cash. He also wanted the mobile lines to buy game credits on iTunes.

Low cheated four men he met on a gay dating application and an online forum with this method.

In one instance, he connected with a 24-year-old man on the forum. When they met on New Year’s Eve in 2018, Low told the man he “wished to start the new year with a new boyfriend”.

The next day, Low rented a car which he used to ferry the other man around. He also claimed that his father worked in the oil and gas industry in South Korea and that he had millions of dollars in his bank account.

This gave the man the impression that Low was wealthy and sincere about starting a relationship with him, said the prosecution.

Later that day, Low persuaded the man to sign seven phone line contracts. The man received six mobile phones from the contracts, which he handed to Low. 

Low sold off the handsets on Jan 4, 2019. But when the man asked Low to pay him back for the fees he had incurred on the contracts, which amounted to more than S$5,000, Low refused and blocked his number.

CAUSED VICTIM’S BIPOLAR DISORDER TO RELAPSE

Low also set up a shell company called Fitness Tea. Sometime in October 2018, a woman responded to a job posting for the company which involved posting job openings online and interviewing applicants.

Low interviewed and hired her on Oct 26, 2018. 

He then persuaded the woman to sign up for five phone contracts, claiming that they were needed for the business.

On Oct 27, 2018, Low also agreed to register a marriage with the woman and filed an online notice of marriage.

At this point, the woman’s sister-in-law told her that Low might be a scammer. Shortly afterwards, the woman suffered a relapse of her bipolar disorder and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) from Oct 30 to Dec 24, 2018.

Some of the woman’s symptoms included “delusions of love”, according to an IMH report on February 2019.

WROTE CHEQUE FOR S$1 TRILLION

In early 2018, Low came up with the idea to issue cheques to his own bank account even though he knew they would bounce. He thought this would temporarily increase his account balance, which he could show to other people.

Around Apr 5, 2018, Low took his mother’s chequebook and issued himself a cheque for S$1 trillion. He forged her signature on the cheque and deposited it with OCBC Bank.

Due to the abnormally large value of the cheque, OCBC made queries on the status of his mother’s bank account and found that it was closed. The cheque was not processed any further, and a bank representative lodged a police report.

Low also issued cheques made payable to himself on at least four other occasions, as well as cheques to entities like the Central Provident Fund Board, the Housing Development Board, Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council and insurance companies. None of these cheques cleared.

He also ran scams involving the rental of cars using the particulars of other people. One of his victims was a man whose NRIC and driving licence Low obtained pictures of when they exchanged particulars after a traffic accident in May 2018.

Low used the man’s particulars to register for an account with Tribecar, renting vehicles a total of 18 times between Dec 14, 2018 and Jan 25, 2019. On two occasions, while driving the rental car, Low beat a red light and hit another vehicle in a basement carpark.

The man whom Low had impersonated received summons and letters from a lawyer and NTUC Income for these traffic incidents, after which he filed police reports that he had never driven the car.

CONVINCED BOYFRIEND TO LIE TO POLICE

In early 2020, Low met his co-accused Desmond Poon Jun Yee, 22. Low lied that he was the director and owner of a well-known bubble tea franchise and the men entered into a relationship.

Aware that he was being investigated by the police, Low devised a plan to convince Poon to take the blame for all his offences. He managed to convince Poon to agree to this plan.

On Sep 9, 2020, Low made a false police report that he had committed his offences at Poon’s instructions since 2018. He claimed that Poon had threatened to harm him and his family and physically abused him.

On Nov 23, 2020, with investigations against him still ongoing, Low made a second false police report alleging that Poon “mentally and physically tortured” him.

In March 2021, he managed to convince Poon to include an element of sexual assault into their lies to the police to make his earlier reports “more believable”.

Low alleged in a police interview on Apr 9, 2021 that Poon had raped him on more than 15 occasions. He made a third false police report later that day accusing Poon of sexual assault between 2018 and 2020.

He maintained these assertions in subsequent statements to the police and was sent for a sexual assault medical examination.

From October 2020 to April 2021, Poon also repeatedly lied to police to support Low’s false police reports. He only came clean in his final video-recorded interview where he said he had not raped or threatened Low.

The prosecution sought a sentence for Low of 68 months’ jail as well as the fine and driving ban given.

“The accused’s conduct was sustained, pre-meditated and well-planned. He preyed on victims who were looking for companionship on social media and dating applications, and then systematically abused their trust,” said the prosecution.

“The accused has demonstrated that he is a recalcitrant offender who has no qualms breaking the law to suit his needs.”

Low's pro bono defence lawyer asked for consideration that his client was pleading guilty instead of claiming trial.

Source: CNA/dv(ta)
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