SINGAPORE, Jan 30 — Over nearly two years, Alice Chua, 71, gave away her life savings of more than S$970,000 (RM2.9 million) to someone she met in church.
She did so as this church acquaintance, 70-year-old Ng Kwee Huay, had suggested that she invest the money in various business projects in Myanmar, Australia and Thailand.
None of the purported investments happened and Ng used the money to roll her debts and pay off other people who had given her money for investment.
Yesterday, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt jailed Ng for six years and two months after she pleaded guilty to 23 counts of cheating charges. Another 106 counts of these charges were taken into consideration for sentencing purposes.
Ng’s scamming ways spanned from 2011 to 2015, and in total, she cheated seven victims of more than S$1 million. Only about S$198,000 has been returned to the victims.
Of the seven, Chua was cheated of the largest sum of money.
She got to know Ng in church and some time in 2013, Ng suggested that Chua invest in international business projects. She claimed to have come across such opportunities in the course of her previous job. The occupations of both women were not mentioned in court documents.
Believing that the investments were genuine, Chua parted with her life savings accumulated from 50 years of work. She paid Ng on 107 occasions from early 2013 to 2015, the court was told.
During that same period, Ng gave close to S$120,000 to Chua on the pretext that these were investment returns.
“She did so to convince (Chua) of the existence and profitability of the investments and thus delay discovery of her offences and encourage (Chua) to continue giving her monies for investment,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Pei Wei.
Chua became suspicious around February 2016 when she wanted to withdraw some of the principal sums invested to pay for a car.
Ng tried to stall for time by claiming she was not in Singapore and cooked up excuses such as work troubles and a sudden business venture failure.
Ng also used similar scams to cheat her other victims. She promised high returns of 16.995 per cent for investment opportunities to one victim and offered “quick cash” from investments — with an interest of 11.8 per cent — to another.
She also cheated her goddaughter’s husband of more than S$57,000 in two scams.
For the first, she represented herself as being related to former Hong Kong national cricket team coach Charlie Burke.
In Aug 2011, Ng told Joseph Vidal Valdez and his wife Isabelle Liu Ruoting about an Australian investment scheme, claiming that Burke was helping to facilitate the transaction. She claimed to have invested A$25,000 in the scheme and offered to let Valdez ride on the current investment to earn a good sum.
When the couple expressed hesitation about investing, she offered to “underwrite their principal as their godmother,” DPP Tan said.
No such scheme existed and Burke had no involvement, the court was told.
Ng cheated Valdez again in 2014, this time presenting herself as a rich and influential businesswoman in Myanmar and Thailand. She suggested that Valdez invest in a “spare parts” project in a fictitious company she had created.
Believing it was a genuine investment opportunity, Valdez handed over more than S$32,000 on 15 occasions between February and August 2014.
Urging the court to impose a sentence of at least seven years’ jail, DPP Tan said Ng was a “habitual and recalcitrant cheat”.
The prosecutor noted that her victims were mostly seniors, save for Valdez and Liu. In particular, Chua lost her life savings as a result of the scam.
“She trusted (Ng) with her life savings which had been painstakingly accrued over 50 years of work and now has nothing to show for it,” DPP Tan said.
She noted that many of her victims trusted Ng as a friend, church member, or even a godmother. Ng had abused the trust they placed in her.
For cheating, Ng could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge. — TODAY