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Woman jailed for cheating banks into disbursing S$1.77 million for fake micro-financing loans

Woman jailed for cheating banks into disbursing S$1.77 million for fake micro-financing loans

A customer withdrawing cash from an automated teller machine. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Using forged bank statements, fake companies and by bribing bank workers, a woman conspired with a man to cheat three banks into disbursing S$1.77 million in loans.

Tan You Jia, 50, was given four-and-a-half years' jail on Wednesday (Mar 3), after pleading guilty to six charges of bribery and cheating involving S$718,000. Another 13 charges were taken into consideration, with S$2.5 million involved across all the charges.

The court heard that Tan met her co-accused, 51-year-old Raymond Lee Beng Yong, at an investment seminar in 2012. About a year later, Lee told Tan that he wanted to apply for a loan of S$100,000 from DBS. 

Tan said she could help, as she "knew many bankers", and helped Lee to submit an application for a business instalment loan. Banks offer such loans to small and medium enterprises for their business operations, after receiving supporting documents including application forms signed by the company's directors, bank statements and documents on the firm's financial status.

Tan's application on Lee's behalf was rejected, and she told him that he could earn money by working for her in a business called Roll & Roll. She claimed the business involved applying for business instalment loans for companies doing import and export work.

Lee began "working" for Tan, who also hired other people to help apply for such loans. However, the businesses were fictitious. The two co-accused "hired" people to act as directors of companies that purportedly needed these loans, offering them a cut of the disbursed funds.

They would then buy shell companies - which had no business activities - and rent office spaces to form the impression that the companies were legitimate. Tan and Lee also bribed two relationship managers from Standard Chartered Bank and Maybank, giving them S$10,500 to process loan applications for them.

As a result, three banks disbursed about S$1.8 million into the borrowers' loan accounts. Lee, acting on Tan's instructions, then took the "directors" to the banks to withdraw most of the amounts in cash.

The police caught wind of the crimes when DBS Bank and StanChart made police reports in early 2015, to say they had received forged bank statements from companies related to business instalment loans.

The banks suffered losses of about S$1.5 million, and investigators could not trace the movement of the funds after they had been withdrawn. No restitution has been made.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Haniza Abnass asked for at least 60 months' jail, saying Tan was one of the primary movers of the cheating offences. Large amounts of money were disbursed by three banks, and Tan was "clearly motivated by financial profit", said Ms Haniza.

She added that Tan had been convicted in 2005 of criminal breach of trust - where she misappropriated a passport entrusted to her by selling it away.

Tan, who has been remanded since July 2019, said she had originally engaged a lawyer under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme who she said, "didn't write for me anything".

IF I DO IT AGAIN, YOU CAN GIVE ME A VERY HARSH SENTENCE: TAN

Giving her own mitigation, Tan claimed at first that all the money was taken by her co-accused, whom she said was her boss.

"He asked me to do submissions for him for all the bank applications. Me and him, we are good friends and based on trust I work for him, I never expect this turn out like that and I become one of the mastermind for this scam," she said.

She said she worked very hard for her family as a delivery driver for SingPost, HonestBee and Redmart, and promised she would "never reoffend" again.

She said this was her first criminal breach of trust offence, to which the judge pointed out that she had a prior conviction. She acknowledged it.

"Your honour, if next time I do it again, you can give me a very harsh sentence. This will be my last offence," she said. "This (past) 20 months I'm in prison, I really have a hard time."

Pleading with the judge with her hands folded in a prayer pose, Tan said she is bankrupt, divorced and has a sick mother and son who is beginning National Service.

She later withdrew her comments that qualified her plea of guilt.

For each charge of cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined. For bribing the bank employees, she could have been jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.

The cases for Lee and the fake company directors are pending.

Source: CNA/ll

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