Man conned of $400k over 15 years
TAN Soy Kiang, 70, had been paying off a debt he was told he owed.
Even after taking on two jobs and handing over $53,000 of his retirement savings, Mr Tan struggled to make good.
For 15 years, he had to borrow money from neighbours and his 73-year-old sister to survive, because his income went to servicing the debt.
No one noticed until his niece returned from Australia in 2013, and found out that Mr Tan, who is single and used to live alone, has been the victim of a malicious scam.
Two Singaporean women allegedly got him to hand over all the money he earned for a non-existent debt they claim he owes the Government.
It is believed that Mr Tan, whom his niece describes as being simple-minded, was conned into giving more than $400,000 of his hard-earned money.
He was never told how much he actually owed, but he trusted the women whom he had known for years.
And he believed them when they said he would be in serious trouble if he did not pay up.
"My uncle was constantly hungry and was always borrowing money from my mother and the residents in Kim Keat Avenue," real estate agent Pamela Lim, 39, told The New Paper.
"He has two jobs. There is no way he doesn't have enough money to take care of himself."
Now, one of the women has been arrested for cheating and the other is assisting police with their investigation, the police said.
Mr Tan, who cannot stand up straight due to a spinal injury, works as a cleaner from 7am to 11.30am along Kim Keat Avenue. He is paid about $1,000.
He doubles as a pump attendant at the Esso station along Lorong 2 in Toa Payoh from 4pm to 10.30pm, also for $1,000.
Every month, one of the two women would wait near the petrol station on his pay day or the next morning in Kim Keat Avenue to collect the money.
The women, aged 65 and 69, allegedly told Mr Tan that he owed money to the Government and that he has to settle the debt through them.
Mr Tan's ordeal only came to light when Ms Lim returned from Australia after living there for 15 years and discovered that he was giving every cent he earned to the two women.
Her uncle said in Teochew: "At first I told her I used to have a failed business, that I'm still paying up the bad debt, but she didn't believe me and kept on and on at me until I confessed what was really happening."
Ms Lim called the two women and set up a meeting a year ago. She confronted them and they allegedly confessed in a video which The New Paper has seen. The police has a copy of the video.
Ms Lim wanted "to settle the matter amicably" and have them return the money.
"I got them to confess on video what they did and even had them agree they would pay my uncle back. We were nice enough to agree that they return $500 a month.
"After that we went to make a police report. Unfortunately, my uncle was deemed a willing party then," she recalled.
The police said that on Feb 3 last year, a 39-year-old woman lodged a police report that her 70-year-old uncle had been handing money to two women for some time. But he told police that he had been doing so on his own accord as a private loan, so assistance from police was not required.
Despite promising to stop their alleged extortion, the women started again in August.
Frustrated, Ms Lim spoke to The New Paper and made another police report.
On Wednesday, Ms Lim handed over the videos and the police initiated investigations, before arresting one of the women on Saturday for cheating.
Mr Tan's colleagues at the petrol station had seen the two women coming round to look for him, but did not know why.
He had no idea how to get out of his predicament, and was too afraid to tell anyone. He now lives with Ms Lim, who is looking after him.
Criminal lawyer Luke Lee said this is probably a case of cheating and the women can be charged under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
"Each time he hands over the money, it is one count of cheating. He has handed over his monthly salary in a period of 15 years. We are looking at multiple counts and it will (likely) be a custodial sentencing," Mr Lee said.
Anyone found guilty faces a fine and can be jailed for up to 10 years.
THE NEW PAPER