SINGAPORE: A 25-year-old man made use of the COVID-19 outbreak to cheat various victims of cash for masks and other items.
He also cheated a church friend who loaned him S$11,000 in total for his daily needs, believing he would return the money. In total, the sum involved across all the cheating charges amounted to more than S$31,000.
Marc Tay Yi Jie, 25, was sentenced on Thursday (Sep 24) to 30 months' jail for nine counts of cheating, with another 18 charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that Tay, who is jobless, was disowned by his parents in 2017 and was not allowed to stay with them.
He stayed at a halfway house for a few months from April 2018 before obtaining support from a church friend, who transferred him money for Tay's daily lodging, meals and transport.
Along with the money he borrowed from other friends, Tay stayed in backpackers' inns, dormitories and hostels.
From March this year, during the COVID-19 outbreak, Tay began to conduct e-commerce scams to fund his needs. He listed items for sale on Carousell and Facebook Marketplace, such as hand sanitisers, thermometers, masks and NTUC vouchers.
However, he did not have the items, and would take either deposits or full payments from customers without delivering the goods.
One victim transferred him a S$400 deposit for 300 bottles of hand sanitiser, 66 boxes of surgical masks and 19 thermometers.
Tay also cheated his church friend, a 61-year-old man. He had approached the man, Mr Ho, for help in end-2018 after his release from prison, and lied to him that he had jobs at big companies but was denied his salaries.
Tay said he could use his salaries to help repay Mr Ho's loans, and asked Mr Ho to lend him money first.
Believing that Tay was gainfully employed and could repay the loans, Mr Ho loaned at least S$11,000 to Tay between December 2018 and August 2019, transferring the sums daily to Tay.
To date, Tay has returned only about S$1,000 to Mr Ho.
Tay also cheated two men into renting him camera equipment worth about S$17,000 in total, before selling away most of it for his own gain.
The prosecutor asked for at least 33 months' jail, saying that majority of the offences sought to capitalise on the public's fears over the COVID-19 situation.
There was an increase in e-commerce scams by 116.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, said the prosecutor.
COVID-19-related items such as surgical face masks were among the top five items commonly scammed during this period.
Tay also has previous convictions in 2017 and 2018, including trespass, theft and attempted housebreaking.
For each charge of cheating, Tay could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
Editor's Note: Details on the case have been edited after updated court documents were provided by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.