SINGAPORE — He pretended to be a woman or a transgender in order to deceive his male victims.
Ramlan Abu, 24, cheated a total of $6,000 from 10 victims, most of whom contacted him via a classifieds website.
On Wednesday (12 June), the freelance social escort was sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ jail, and 10 strokes of the cane.
Ramlan pleaded guilty to 12 counts of extortion and cheating and two drug-related charges. Another 50 counts related to extortion and cheating were taken into consideration for his sentencing. The offences were committed between 25 May and 23 October last year.
To advertise his sexual services, Ramlan created a profile on classifieds website Locanto, where he used female names such as “Ellisha” or “Mariaa”.
One victim, a 22-year-old man, came across Ramlan’s advertisement and contacted him through WhatsApp on 24 September last year. The victim sent Ramlan a nude photo of himself before the two communicated through a video call.
Believing Ramlan to be a female, the victim agreed to pay $55.55 to watch Ramlan masturbate. During the call, the victim saw Ramlan’s private parts and realised that he was a male. Nonetheless, the victim transferred $55.55 to Ramlan’s bank account.
Later that day, Ramlan asked for $90 more from the victim. He claimed that he had made a Facebook post in which he had uploaded a picture of the victim’s face and genitals, and threatened not to take it down. The victim complied out of fear.
However, Ramlan used the same method to threaten the victim further. He extorted a total of $3,110 from the victim over 31 occasions for about a month. The victim later made a police report.
On 22 October, Ramlan preyed on another 34-year-old man. The latter saw Ramlan’s advertisement on Locanto and contacted him via WhatsApp. Ramlan identified himself as a transgender who has yet to undergo a sex-change operation.
The duo agreed to meet at Ramlan’s house. Ramlan performed oral sex on the victim, who then paid him $60.
After the victim left the house, Ramlan contacted him using another number and pretended to be the social escort’s agent. The “agent” told the victim that the price that the latter had paid was insufficient. The victim complied and paid an additional $100.
Ramlan went on to scam three other men, threatening to circulate incriminating exchanges with his victims or photos unless they paid him.
On 23 October, Ramlan was arrested. Methamphetamine and utensils for drug consumption were found on him.
Koh Jian Ying, Ramlan’s pro bono lawyer, said his client, who lived alone in a rental flat, had resorted to extortion to pay for his mother’s medical expenses.
“Mr Ramlan is the sole caretaker for his elderly and sick mother, who suffered a stroke in 2015. He gives her about $1,200 per month to pay for the costs of her medical check-ups and her medication. His other siblings and his father do not assist them in any way,” said Koh.
As Ramlan only studied up till Secondary 3, he has had difficulty finding a stable job and resorted to working as a social escort to support himself and his mother, according to the lawyer.
“The victims had all previously sent Mr Ramlan explicit photos of themselves willingly…Mr Ramlan did not request for the victims to send him their photographs,” he added.
While Ramlan threatened to post the photos online, none of the photos revealed the victims’ faces, the lawyer said.