Singapore— Christina Cheong Yoke Lin pleaded guilty on May 30, Wednesday, to dishonestly misappropriating cash, and will be back in court next month for sentencing. But the story of how she ended up with this guilty plea is surely one for the books when it comes to online love scams.
Ms Cheong, a 63-year-old part-time English teacher met a man online who is only referred to as ‘Collins’ in court documents. In the course of their relationship, she allowed S$50,030 to be deposited in her bank account, purportedly from him. It actually came from the other woman whom Collins was scamming, a 54-year-old Singaporean, who made the deposit into Ms Cheong’s account.
Later, he asked her to transfer 50,000 to “one of his boss’ associates,” which caused her to grow suspicious.
Little did she know that the amount had been given to Collins by another woman whom he had conned in a love scam.
However, instead of doing as Collins wanted, Ms Cheong kept the money in her own account, eventually using S$1,000 for personal purposes, hence the guilty plea on May 29 for dishonestly misappropriating the cash.
According to Deputy public prosecutor Ng Jun Chong, “Collins explained that the accused could take SS$500 (RM1,520) out of each transaction and bring the rest of the money to Johor Baru, Malaysia.
After asking why the money could not be paid directly into his boss’ account, and if she would get into trouble for carrying ‘lots of money’, the accused agreed to ‘try out’ the arrangement.”
However, the money stayed in Ms Cheong’s account.
Mr Ng continued, “From Aug 18 until Aug 27, 2017, Collins asked the accused repeatedly about the money but the accused kept making excuses and ignoring his WhatsApp voice calls.
Finally, on Aug 27, 2017, Collins fell out with the accused and called her a ‘thief’ via WhatsApp… Thereafter, the accused ignored several WhatsApp messages and voice calls from Collins before blocking him.”
But, at around the same time, Ms Cheong fell for a love scam herself, depositing S$31,000 to a bank account in Malaysia to a man with whom she said she was in love, only referred to as ‘Mark Anthony.’
Mark Anthony told her he was being detained by authorities in Malaysia.
According to the Deputy Prosecutor, “As for the remaining S$19,000, from August 18 to September 4 , 2017, the accused spent S$1,000 on her own expenses and transferred the remainder to various foreign bank accounts over several occasions pursuant to the instructions of one ‘Chong Lee’, who had promised to give the accused S$800,000 for her help as part of an inheritance scam.”
The police were alerted to Ms Cheong’s doings by the original victim of Collins’ love scam. The woman told the police about Ms Cheong’s involvement on September 22, 2017.
Ms Cheong has returned the money in full to the victim of Collins’ love scam, according to Defence lawyer Yu Kexin.
Ms Yu told the court that her client was suffering from major depressive disorder when she committed the dishonest misappropriation of the money and asked District Judge Ng Peng Hong to call for a report to assess her client’s suitability for a mandatory treatment order (MTO).
If she is found guilty, she can be jailed for up to two years.
Instead of jail time, offenders given an MTO have to undergo treatment for their mental condition.
The judge agreed to this and asked Ms Cheong to return to court on June 26. Meantime, Ms Cheong was offered bail of S$25,000./ TISG