SINGAPORE: An insurance agent who sent former and potential clients threatening letters signed off as "Lord Voldermort" lost his appeal on Friday (Jul 19) against his jail sentence.
The alias he used was a misspelling of Lord Voldemort, a character in the Harry Potter book and film series.
Myanmar national and Singapore permanent resident Ye Lin Myint had been sentenced to two years and five months' jail in January after pleading guilty to five charges of criminal intimidation and eight charges under the Protection from Harassment Act, with another 30 charges taken into consideration.
The former Prudential insurance agent had sent 43 letters to 33 victims including potential or former clients who had rejected his business, threatening harm unless they transferred him bitcoins.
After the clients did not fall for it, Ye sent similar letters to their neighbours, inspired by a news article about loan sharks pressuring debtors by harassing their neighbours.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon dismissed the appeal, saying that the sentence was not manifestly excessive.
"If anything, it was on the low side," said the judge.
YE GAVE DNA EVIDENCE TO POLICE: DEFENCE
Ye's lawyer Foo Cheow Ming had argued that Ye had issued physical letters that he personally handled, licking the stamps.
He said he was surrendering his anonymity, by handing DNA evidence to the police.
"He didn't surrender anonymity," said CJ Menon. "You can't commit a robbery and say - look, I left my fingerprints behind. I don't think that helps very much."
The judge said that Ye's ineptitude as a criminal would not merit a lighter sentence.
The defence counsel said his client was a "proud father of two children" and had suffered untreated and undiagnosed depression at the time, which developed into major depressive disorder.
The sentence was "manifestly excessive and disproportionate" for someone with a clean record and who is suitable for rehabilitation, said the defence.
"The irony is - had he driven a car across a pedestrian crossing and killed someone, he would have been sentenced to a shorter jail sentence," added the lawyer.
The prosecution said Ye was motivated not only by vengefulness but also by greed. He not only premeditated the offences, by creating email accounts specifically for that purpose, he tried to get the victims to transfer him bitcoins.
He also included in his threatening letters confidential and personal information about the victims that he had access to as their previous or potential insurance agent.
This was a "cynical abuse of customer information and breach of fiduciary duty", said the prosecutor.
HIS ACTIONS SPURRED POLICE, MP TO ISSUE ADVISORIES: CJ
CJ Menon said Ye threatened an escalating cycle of harm to his victims and sent 43 sets of communication to 33 victims, which led to the Singapore Police Force and an MP having to issue online advisories.
"Mr Foo tried to persuade me that this was really not such a serious case but I do not accept that," said the judge.
He said the psychiatric evidence showed that Ye was suffering "if anything a mild episode of depression" at the time, with no significant contributory link to the offence.
"There really is no doubt he really intended to extract monetary price from them," said the judge. "His failure to achieve this due to his ineptitude or otherwise is not a mitigating factor."
He said there was an element of public disquiet, and Ye had sent the letters anonymously.
"The whole essence of criminal intimidation is the threat, the threat on someone," said CJ Menon. "When you have an anonymous threat, the person can't take steps to protect himself, because you don't know where the threat is from."
"They didn't know anything about him, but he knew all about them," said the judge.
He allowed Ye's wife some time to speak to him after the hearing.