Singapore teen exploited ‘superstitious’ family friend by acting as deity, took her savings, salary and insurance payouts

Soh Chih Hui, now 23, cheated Madam Goh Seng Mui of at least S$49,600 between April and October 2015. — TODAY pic
Soh Chih Hui, now 23, cheated Madam Goh Seng Mui of at least S$49,600 between April and October 2015. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 1 — It started when an 18-year-old girl told her mother’s friend that she had found a potential husband for her, showing her a photograph of the man from her mobile phone.

In the end, teenager Soh Chih Hui cheated Goh Seng Mui, then 56 years old, of at least S$49,600 (RM150,727.64) between April and October 2015.

Soh took advantage of the victim’s superstitious beliefs, pretending that she was a deity to trick her into submission.

Goh handed over all her savings and resorted to borrowing from her brother.

Soh, now 23, claimed trial to her offences but was found guilty of a cheating charge yesterday, with a district judge saying the prosecution had proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Soh had admitted her crimes to the police, but denied during the trial that she took any money from Goh or helped her to find a husband.

She will return to court on Dec 3 to be sentenced and remains out on bail of S$15,000. She could be jailed up to 10 years and fined.

Victim ‘plainly naive’

During the 16-day trial, Goh testified that she could not recall exactly how much money she had handed to Soh.

This was because a long period of time had gone by and she did not keep any records.

Goh is a primary school friend of Soh’s mother and she later worked for Soh’s father at a bak kut teh (pork rib soup) stall in Tampines.

Soh told her one day that she could introduce her to a 51-year-old bank employee, who would become her boyfriend and future husband. The man allegedly earned S$7,000 a month and owned a temple in the Changi area.

Goh regularly prayed at temples, attending “xiu xing” (religious practice) lessons and changing her name for good luck.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Eric Hu said that she was “a superstitious person” and “plainly naive and simple-minded”, having worked odd jobs her entire life — something that Soh exploited.

When Soh demanded money, she appeared to Goh as a child deity, speaking in a high-pitched and child-like voice.

She spoke in a low voice and appeared as another deity named “Fu Wang” on other occasions.

She told Goh that she could not find a husband because she was not fated to be with a man.

Soh added that Goh needed to “borrow fate”, which meant that she had to hand over cash to buy makeup and cosmetics, branded shoes and clothing, as well as to chant prayers, do rituals and make offerings.

Goh testified that she handed over about S$90,000 and was “very frightened”, giving Soh whatever amount she asked.

DPP Hu said: “Ultimately, the victim was unsure of the time period and the amounts because she was repeatedly asked by the accused to deliver money on multiple occasions. It happened over so many occasions that she could no longer remember the specific details anymore.

“To be blunt, the victim was treated akin to the accused’s personal ATM. Whenever the accused wanted money, she would call the victim, and the victim would have to scramble to withdraw and pass cash to her, even when it was in the middle of the night.”

More manipulation

On one occasion, Goh recounted giving S$10,000 to Soh in a toilet cubicle at the Tampines One mall, and borrowing S$19,000 from her brother.

He testified that Goh could not reveal the reason for the loan or she would be revealing “the secret of heaven”.

After she ran out of money, Soh asked her to work for her father at the hawker stall and to give her the salary when she is paid.

Goh also gave Soh an insurance payout of more than S$17,000.

In January 2016, Goh finally realised what was going on when Soh asked her to sell her Housing and Development Board flat. Soh’s family had grown suspicious, too.

Goh eventually filed a police report. — TODAY

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