SINGAPORE: Knowing that their colleague had just received a large insurance payout and had a "weakness for women", two men decided to play a prank on him by posing as a woman.
However, this soon escalated, with the duo conspiring to extort S$4,000 from their colleague after successfully tricking him into sending his nudes.
Malaysian Rajakumar Sumugam, 50, was sentenced to two years and four months' jail on Friday (Jan 14) for his role in the scheme.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit extortion. His co-accused, 36-year-old Sarvanan Ellankovan, was given two years and three months' jail and one stroke of the cane in November.
The court heard that the two men were drinking with fellow Malaysian workers on Nov 14, 2020 when they spoke about the victim, a 51-year-old man.
Rajakumar talked about how the victim had a weakness for women and recently received a large insurance payout. Sarvanan overheard and asked Rajakumar for the victim's phone number, intending to play a prank on him by pretending to be a woman.
A few days after this, Sarvanan and Rajakumar conspired to extort money from the victim.
Sarvanan sent a message via WhatsApp posing as a woman named Priya. He began flirting with the victim and sent him nude photos of women he had obtained online around Nov 30, 2020.
Thinking that the photos were of Priya and that Priya was flirting with him, the victim reciprocated with eight nude photos and eight intimate videos of himself. His face and private parts were exposed in the footage.
Sarvanan saved the images and videos to a thumb drive.
On Dec 1, 2020, Rajakumar told Sarvanan to call the victim and pretend to be Priya's husband to extort the victim.
Sarvanan called the victim and pretended to be Priya's husband. He confronted the victim for flirting with his "wife" and demanded S$10,000 as settlement.
He threatened to disseminate the victim's nudes, and the victim transferred S$4,000 to Sarvanan's POSB bank account in early December 2020.
Sarvanan gave S$1,100 of the sum to Rajakumar.
The victim lodged a police report on Dec 7, 2020. A day later, Sarvanan demanded that the victim pay the remaining sum, but the victim said he did not have it.
Sarvanan threatened him, saying that Priya's younger brother was a gangster and would look for him.
Sarvanan and Rajakumar were arrested that same day and remanded.
The prosecutor asked for at least two years and three months' jail. The offence draws mandatory caning, but Rajakumar cannot be caned as he just turned 50, she said. She sought a jail term in lieu of the caning.
In mitigation, Rajakumar's lawyer said his client received only about S$1,000 from the extortion sum. The planning was done by Sarvanan, and his client had a lower culpability, he said.
In response, the prosecutor said both men have equal culpability, pointing out how Rajakumar was the one who told Sarvanan to call the victim and pose as Priya's husband.
Of the two years and four months' jail that the judge meted out to Rajakumar, one month was in lieu of caning.
For conspiring to commit extortion, he could have been sentenced to between two and seven years' jail.