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Singapore

Teen gets reformative training for running online sex scams, taking part in investment scam

SINGAPORE: A teenager who cheated men of money by pretending to be a woman offering sexual services was sentenced on Thursday (Sep 30) to reformative training.

Jerell Lim Jing Kai, 19, pleaded guilty to six charges, five of which were for cheating. The remaining charge was for his role in an investment scam.

He was sentenced to six months' reformative training, with 11 other charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that Lim set up profiles of women on the website locanto.com, using images he got off Instagram. He then offered sexual services to two men who messaged him.

Lim had the victims transfer the money to bank accounts belonging to others, with who he split the money. The victims cannot be named due to a gag order to protect their identities.

SEX SCAMS

In February last year, Lim set up a profile under the name “Bernise”, claiming to be a 20-year-old woman. He approached his friend Leow Weijie to use Leow's bank account.

Leow would receive money in his bank account and withdraw the money at Lim's instruction. Leow would be paid 20 per cent of the money as commission.

On Mar 27, 2020, a 24-year-old man messaged Lim on the site. Lim replied to the man and advertised sexual services. They arranged to meet up. 

However, Lim claimed that Bernise’s sister was hospitalised, and they were unable to meet up. He asked the victim to transfer S$1,000 to Leow's bank account as a loan, purportedly for medical bills. He also sent the victim a photo of a medical bill.

Leow kept S$200 as commission, while Lim took S$800. Leow then refused to allow Lim to continue to use his bank account. 

Lim approached another friend, Gabriel Emmanuel Teo, to use Teo's bank account. He agreed to pay Teo a 20 per cent commission.

On Mar 29, 2020, Lim asked the victim for more money for medical bills and the victim transferred another S$2,000. Teo retained S$400 as commission while Lim received S$1,600.

On Apr 10, 2020, Lim told the victim that Bernise’s sister had died, and asked for money for funeral expenses. The victim transferred S$520, of which Teo kept S$104 as commission and the remaining went to Lim.

The victim eventually suspected that he had been scammed and made a police report on Apr 26 last year, court documents read.

In May last year, Lim found out that Teo and Leow had been contacted by the police to assist in investigations.

He instructed Teo and Leow to lie to the police and say that they had provided their accounts to an unknown person in return for cash, and that unknown person was now uncontactable.

In July last year, Lim set up another profile on locanto.com using the name “feliciaxx88” and posted an advertisement on the same website offering sexual services.

To hide his identity, Lim asked a friend - who was unnamed in court documents - to obtain bank accounts belonging to third parties. Lim agreed to give his friend 30 per cent of the money he received from scam victims, while he kept 70 per cent.

This friend approached another friend, Then Wei Siong, who agreed to provide a Paylah QR code, linked to his bank account. At all times, Then knew it would be used to receive money from victims cheated via the online scam, according to court documents.

On Jul 13, 2020, another victim messaged “Felicia” on a Telegram account that Lim created.

Lim sent the victim a list of sexual services that could be provided and the accompanying prices. The victim agreed to transfer S$200 via Then's Paylah QR code, as a deposit for sexual services.

Lim then said that “Felicia” owed loan sharks money and asked for a loan of S$280. The victim transferred the money “out of sympathy”, court documents read.

Two days later, Lim asked to meet the victim at a fake residential address. The victim made a police report after travelling to the address and realising that the residential unit did not exist.

Teo's case is pending.

ROLE IN INVESTMENT SCAM

Lim also played a role in an investment scam in April this year. A bank account he set up with UOB was used to receive and transfer more than S$190,000.

According to court documents, Lim came across a Telegram group by a man claiming to be “Wilson” advertising an opportunity to make fast cash.

When Lim enquired about this opportunity, Wilson claimed that he needed Lim’s bank account for stock-related purposes and that he could not use his own as he needed multiple accounts. Lim was promised a commission of S$500 to S$1,000 per month.

Wilson specifically needed a UOB account, and Lim went to set up an account with UOB. He met a man who claimed to be Wilson, and handed over a debit card and internet banking token linked to the UOB account, and the details to access the account.

Lim’s role in the investment scam came to light after a 33-year-old victim made a police report claiming he was the victim of an investment scam.

The victim stated that in April, he was introduced to an investment platform called Fidelity Investments.

In order to top up his investment account, the victim was told to make transfers to various bank accounts. Thinking he was topping up his account, the victim transferred S$1,500 to the UOB account belonging to Lim.

However, the victim was told that his investment account was "frozen" and that he had to transfer more money to “unfreeze” it. The next day, the victim made a police report.

“At all times, the accused had reasonable grounds to believe that by handing over control of his bank account to Wilson, he would be facilitating Wilson’s control of benefits from criminal conduct,” court documents read.

From Apr 26 to Apr 28, the UOB account was used to receive S$191,780.80, and S$191,752.24 was transferred out of the account, according to court documents.

For each count of cheating, Lim could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Source: CNA/ja

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