10 year jail sentence for former HSBC exec who scammed S$5m from elderly relatives and friends

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Emeline Tang Wei Leng, 40, received a ten and a half year jail sentence for cheating five elderly female friends and relatives out of S$5.2m in 12 years. Ms. Leng was once a senior vice president of HSBC, where she was employed from 2004-2012.

In 2003, in the midst of personal financial troubles, Ms. Tang told a 79-year-old relative that HSBC had a fixed deposit promotion program with a higher interest rate in comparison to other financial institutions. She offered to help her relative open an account, and got her to issue a check made out to cash instead of to HSBC.

The problem was, no such promotion existed. 

When three of their other relatives, ages 45, 69, 79 heard about the alleged promotion, they also handed money over to Ms. Tang for opening accounts.

One of the victims was Ms. Tang’s husband’s aunt, another was her sister-in-law, and two others were distant relatives.Victim number 5, a friend of two of these relatives, did the same as the others, giving Ms. Tang large amounts of money.

For the next twelve years Ms. Tang continued to manage to get money from the five women, telling them she would invest these funds in various fixed deposit plans. She also got them to believe that she was still with HSBC, even after she had left the bank in 2012.

To avoid suspicion at HSBC, she kept the funds from the women in her own home, and later on exchanged portions of it for gambling chips in casinos at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, at one point, obtaining chips worth S$600,000 at Resorts World.

Her nefarious schemes were found out in January 2015, when she failed to appear at a meeting with the women, who had previously asked to withdraw some of the money. When the women inquired about their accounts at HSBC, they learned the truth that Ms. Tang had been lying to them for over a decade.

Ms.Tang was accused of 34 charges including cheating, forgery and dealing with the benefits of criminal behavior, with another 223 charges considered as well.

Haniza Abnass, the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the case, said that the women were at the end of their life, were no longer capable of earning back their losses, practically losing their life savings. She asked that Ms. Tang be given at least a 10 year jail sentence. 

Although Ms. Tang gave the women S$800,000 back, the prosecutor argued that these were “investment returns” as opposed to a sign of real contrition.

Ms. Tang’s defense team cited her “emotionally abusive” relationship with her husband, a gambler whose debts she covered, as well as the fact that she paid for her father’s medical expenses, to ask for a shorter sentence of only 8 years. They claimed that Ms. Tang was remorseful for that she had done.

However, District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim showed sympathy to the women Ms. Tang had scammed, stating that they “have been so devastated that I don’t see how they’ll ever recover.”

Under the fullest extent of the law, for every charge of cheating that she faced, Ms. Tang could have received the maximum of a 10 year prison sentence, as well as a fine.