Man jailed 81 months for handphone subscription scams of over $170,000

Wan Ting Koh
iPhones. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

For almost a year, the owner of a business selling secondhand mobile phones conned some 50 victims by convincing them to sign up for mobile subscriptions after lying that their sign-up costs and monthly bills would be paid for by other persons.

Ang See Seng, 33, would then ask the subscribers to hand over the mobile devices that came with the plans but not pay for the monthly bills that were charged to the victims.

Through this method, Ang managed to fraudulently receive a total of 101 electronic devices worth more than $106,000. In total, he received more than $170,000 worth of goods and cash.

Even after being scammed, some of Ang’s victims decided to join his scam to reel in other victims. Ang had as many as 11 accomplices helping him in the mobile subscription scam at one point.

Ang – who faced 166 charges, the bulk of which are for cheating – was sentenced to 81 months’ jail and six strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to 15 counts of cheating. He was also sentenced on other separate offences, including one count of voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant, one count of owning an offensive weapon, one count of criminal intimidation, and two counts of drug-related offences.

Ang committed the cheating offences between 7 December 2014 and 24 November 2015. He would get accomplices to cheat victims by proposing to victims a money-making scheme. Accomplices would get victims to sign up for subscription contracts on behalf of Ang and pass the phones to him after receiving them. The victims were told that their phone bills would be paid for, and they were given some money for their assistance.

After receiving the phones, Ang and his accomplices would use them to purchase hundred dollars worth of game credits and resell them online for money. The bill for the purchases would be passed on to the victims. Accomplices would be reimbursed several hundred dollars for their help. Ang received a total of 101 electronic devices worth $106,521 and $170,835.25 worth of goods and cash.

On a separate occassion, Ang also injured a police officer while in the midst of being arrested for drug-related offences in May last year. On 28 May last year, police officers searched Ang’s home in Yishun and found drug-related equipment. Upon being discovered, Ang tried to leave the room but was prevented from doing so by police officers.

Ang tried to push his way past officers but ended up in a violent struggle with them and bit one police officer on the right forearm. He was later subdued and brought to a police station. The police officer later went to the hospital where he was found to have a bruise stemming from a human bite with abrasions and was given a tetanus shot.

Ang was also convicted on one charge of criminally intimidating a taxi driver who had picked him up as a passenger. On 6 August last year, taxi driver Ong Kah Peng picked Ang up at around 1.43am and sent him to Lorong 7 Geylang. Ong lent Ang his mobile phone after Ang asked to borrow it.

When Ong asked for his phone to be returned, Ang took out a bronze metallic object from his pocket, spurring Ong to leave his taxi. However, Ang followed him and threatened to smash Ong’s phone if Ong didn’t return to the taxi.

Alarmed, Ong asked a passer-by to call the police and Ang left the area. At around 7pm the same day, police officers arrested Ang in Yishun and found a knuckle duster in his possession.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tow Chew Chi sought a jail sentence of at least seven years’ to be imposed on Ang, citing the high sum of money and number of victims involved.

“Around 50 victims were cheated in this scam, which shows the large magnitude of this scam,” said the DPP. Arguing for a stricter penalty, the prosecution also mentioned Ang’s past offences including carrying an offensive weapon, causing hurt, criminal intimidation and robbery. Of his past offences, the punishment for robbery was the most severe – he was jailed eight years and caned four strokes in 2004.

In mitigation, Ang’s lawyer, Alice Tan Chor Hoon, asked for a sentence of not more than 40 months’ jail. She said that Ang has two young daughters, aged two and four, who are currently being supported by their mother.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur noted that a “substantial” jail term had to be imposed given the Ang’s past convictions. For cheating, Ang could have been jailed up to ten years and fined on each count.