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Singapore’s Ponzi scheme queen lands 14 years in jail

It's the end of the road for the country's Ponzi scheme queen whose dishonest takings topped the record by far.

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Leong Lai Yee, 55 years old, pleaded guilty to 51 charges for operating a ponzi scheme in five years, scamming 53 people and running off with over S$35 million in total. Leong will be serving a 14-year jail term with another 806 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

According to a report by Channel News Asia, former real estate agent Leong had, between the years 2010-15, victimised people by telling them to invest money for the purchase of distressed or bank-recovered properties, and then sell these properties for a profit.

Another ruse she used was telling her supposed investors that their funds would finance highly and regularly profitable start-ups.

These investors entrusted Leong with amounts of between S$150,000 to S$800,000.

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Typically, Leong then used these funds to settle her own house and car loan repayments, bills and family expenses.

In 2014, the scam became exposed after Leong delayed payments. She told the victims that she would refund all outstanding payments by mid-May 2015, a deadline that she was never able to meet.

Disappearing act

Running from her debtors, the Ponzi scheme queen fled to Thailand on May 15, 2015. However, Leong’s victims acted quickly and in that same month, 107 people made police reports against her anf Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department launched an investigation on the matter.

Finally, in November 2017, Leong surrendered herself at the Singapore embassy in Bangkok.

As she has not made any restitution, the prosecution urged the court to jail her for at least 14 to 15 years.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kenneth Chin and Foong Leong Parn noted that there have been no similar cases in which the amount of stolen money came anywhere close to Leong’s dishonest takings.

Defence lawyer Tito Isaac asked for an alternative sentence of eight to nine years’ jail, saying his client was immensely remorseful and “is committed to starting afresh.”

Each charge will mean incarceration of Leong for up to 10 years and stiff fines. /TISG

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