SINGAPORE, June 15 — Between 2019 and 2023, David Chua cheated customers of a travel agency where he worked and strangers on Carousell to fund his gambling habit.

In all, he had taken in excess of S$160,000 from the various victims, including from one victim he cheated with “persistence” 25 times.

Yesterday (June 14), the 36-year-old Singaporean was sentenced to 21 months’ jail after pleading guilty to two charges of cheating and one of criminal breach of trust.

Two other charges were taken into consideration for sentencing while one was discharged amounting to an acquittal.

What happened

The court heard that between September and October 2019, while Chua was working at Holiday Tour & Travel as a travel consultant, he asked six customers to make payment for their tour packages directly to him instead of the company.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ryan Lim said: “On at least two of those occasions, he told the customer that he would be able to provide discounts if they did so.”

By the end of October that year, he had misappropriated the money — amounting to S$22,400 — and used it to repay his gambling debts.

The company conducted internal investigations after a customer notified them that he did not receive the promised vouchers and travel itinerary. Chua’s employment was terminated on Oct 31 and the company made a police report the next day.

Between Aug 13 and Oct 23 in 2022, he cheated five people of at least S$20,830 through online marketplace Carousell by promising to sell them tickets to an e-gaming tournament. The buyers never got the tickets.

Court documents did not state whether or not Chua had such tickets to offer in the first place.

Of the five victims he fleeced, he made full restitution of S$900 to three of them and made none to two others, including one from whom he cheated S$17,260.

Sometime in or before August 2022, Chua became acquainted with a sixth victim who saw an advertisement he put up on Carousell.

Between August and October that year, the male victim transferred about S$36,740 to him, after Chua offered various purported investment opportunities.

Around December that year, Chua told this sixth victim that the trading account used for one of the victim’s investments had been frozen. He instructed the victim to get in touch with his supposed friend and broker named “Khun Nai” for assistance. Khun Nai was Chua himself.

On 25 occasions between Dec 17, 2022 and Jan 31, 2023, Chua who was posing as Khun Nai instructed the victim to transfer various sums of money, said to be for purposes of withdrawing his investment capital.

In reality, the money was transferred into Chua’s bank account or his accounts on gambling websites.

On each occasion, the victim transferred anything between S$500 and about S$7,625, totalling almost S$87,700.

This excludes the roughly S$36,740 cheated from the victim between August and October 2022, and another excess of S$40,000 in personal loan that Chua borrowed from the victim.

The victim eventually filed a police report on February 4, 2023.

Chua has repaid the victim S$10,500.

Seeking between 21 and 24 months’ imprisonment, DPP Lim highlighted how for the first offence, Chua had betrayed both the trust of his employer and his customers, and made no restitutions to the parties.

He then exploited online platform Carousell to reach a “wider pool of potential victims” when carrying out his ticket-selling scam.

In regards to the last victim, DPP Lim said: “The accused displayed persistence in extracting monies from the victim, cheating him on 25 occasions”.

DPP Lim also noted how Chua displayed a level of planning by posing as a broker and coming up with a ploy to trick the victim into parting with even more money.

For each count of cheating, Chua could have been sentenced to 10 years’ jail and fined.

For criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed up to 15 years and been liable to a fine. — TODAY