Man who fled to Thailand to avoid drug charges cheated mask buyers in Singapore

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
A stack of surgical masks.
A stack of surgical masks. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A man who was under investigation for drug offences fled to Thailand while on bail.

Despite being away from Singapore, Jonathan Poh Yu Qin, described by the prosecution as a “serial cheater”, managed to scam $16,842 in total from victims in Singapore by promising them masks he did not have.

Poh, 24, was jailed for one year and two months on Tuesday (15 June), with an additional jail term of 134 days for reoffending while he was serving a remission order for a previous offence.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty to four out of 12 charges of cheating, with the remaining taken into consideration for sentencing. Poh was on remission from 5 October 2019 to 9 June 2020 for a 2019 offence, also involving cheating, when he reoffended.

On 25 November 2019, Poh fled to Thailand while on bail and under investigation for drug offences. He met his wife, who was waiting for him there.

While in Thailand, Poh began advertising the sale of surgical masks on Telegram and Carousell, and used the proceeds he cheated on his personal expenses.

Using pseudonyms like “Kenji”, “Kenji Wong” and “Kenk3n”, Poh would then solicit pre-orders of surgical masks and ask victims to transfer deposits to him. After he received the monies, however, he would disappear and none of the victims, of which there were at least 12, received their orders.

The largest amount came from a 23-year-old woman who contacted Poh on 28 January last year to buy surgical masks after seeing his advertisement on a Telegram group titled “SG Free Marketplace (Buy/ Sell/ Trade/ Advertise)”.

She placed an order for 30 cartons of surgical masks and transferred $13,925 into Poh’s bank account. Although Poh assured her that he would deliver the masks to her on 31 January, the woman never received the masks she bought.

The victim lodged a police report on 1 February 2020.

Another victim made an order for N95 surgical masks for his clinics after friends working at another clinic passed Poh’s contact to him. The victim, a 37-year-old man, placed an order for 200 boxes and paid $1,650 to Poh but he never received his order.

Another victim, a 47-year-old man, contacted Poh after seeing the advertisement on Telegram. To convince the victim of the legitimacy of his ‘business’, he sent the victim screenshots of payments allegedly made by other buyers.

He transferred $375 to Poh, who directed him to meet him at Toh Guan ExtraSpace. While the victim followed his instructions, Poh never showed up and stopped returning the victim’s calls and messages.

Poh was arrested upon his return to Singapore on 25 February this year. No restitution was made to the victims.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Claudia Chen said that Poh’s cheating offences date back to 2017, showing the he had a blatant disregard for the law and no regard to reforming himself. The prosecution sought at least 14 months’ jail for the offences and another 134 days’ jail for his breach of remission order.

Poh, who represented himself, said that he went to Thailand where his wife was waiting because he “really did not do the offences related to drugs”.

He told the court that the charges were for having an amount of methamphetamine, which he claimed had belonged to his friend.

“I was told by the Central Narcotics Bureau that I was being monitored because I was trafficking,” he added. Poh currently does not face any drug-related charges.

“I have been holding a job ever since...I ran and when I was in Thailand I was also working, it was paying very low. I resorted to cheating because of my family and my kid. I am a young father and my kid is one this year. I resorted to cheating because I really could not find a way out,” he said.

Appearing through videolink, Poh told District Judge Marvin Bay that he surrendered and admitted everything upon returning to Singapore as his parents were old and told him that they “did not have much time” left.

DJ Bay said he agreed with the prosecution that a “hard stance” was needed to deal with scams related to COVID-19 given the vulnerability of the public to such hoaxes.

He told Poh, “You are still a young man, aged 24 with a child. You really need to find a better way to make a living.”

For cheating, Poh could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.

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