A man who cheated pawnshops of $42,900 by passing off fake gold bars as genuine ones was jailed 70 weeks on Wednesday (15 September). Kato Hitoshi, 28, had pleaded guilty to four cheating charges. Another five similar charges were taken into consideration.
According to court documents, Hitoshi – formerly known as Lee Juesheng Jason – had gotten to know a Malaysian named Jeremy at a nightclub in Johor in 2015. In August the following year, Jeremy presented Hitoshi with an opportunity to earn some extra money.
Jeremy explained that he had gold bars that which he wished to pawn and, in return for Hitoshi’s help, would give Hitoshi about 20 per cent of the money obtained. Hitoshi had initially suspected that the gold bars were fake. Jeremy later revealed that he had obtained the gold bars from a source at $900 per piece, and that the bars had been modelled after those from “The Perth Mint Australia”.
According to Jeremy, the bars were only 50 per cent gold. Jeremy also told Hitoshi not to sell the gold bars, but to only pawn them as pawnshop operators would be less inquisitive with regard to their authenticity.
Seeing a chance to earn extra cash, the self-employed Hitoshi chose to purchase five fake gold bars – instead of taking up the commission offer – and paid Jeremy $4,500 for them. Hitoshi then pawned three gold bars on 13 August 2016 at a Maxi Cash outlet in Yishun, for which he received $5,200.
Hitoshi then purchased more gold bars on two different occasions. He also roped in his friend, Lim Jun Xiang Leon, to help pawn the fake gold bars. Lim did so twice over a five-day period in September 2016, pawning the bars at a Moneymax Financial Services outlet in Bishan and a Maxi Cash outlet at Serangoon Road. Hitoshi received more than $16,000 from the transactions, of which $2,300 was paid to Lim.
Hitoshi then roped another friend, Lin Hao, into his scheme. Hitoshi sold Lin Hao five gold bars at $6,800, and told Lin how to earn a profit off them. Lin then pawned the gold bars for $8,500 at a Maxi Cash outlet in Bukit Merah Central on 10 September 2016, despite knowing that the items were fake.
All the fake gold bars pawned have since been seized by the police. Tests conducted by the Health Sciences Authority confirmed that each of the gold bars were gold plated and had a low gold content. While Hitoshi, Lim and Lin were apprehended, Jeremy remains at large.
Helping to pay of father’s debts
In mitigation, Hitoshi said that he saw Jeremy’s business opportunity as a quick way to earn some extra cash to help pay off his father’s debts.
“At that point of time, my family was in a bad shape… My parents are old and my dad has a lot of debts. His business is not doing well,” said Hitoshi, who added that he has a younger brother who does not contribute financially to the family despite being employed.
District Judge Lorraine Ho, however, said that a “deterrent sentence” was needed as Hitoshi had been involved in a “sophisticated gold bar scam”.
During sentencing, Hitoshi also faced an unrelated charge of voluntarily causing hurt. On 15 May last year, Hitoshi had punched his wife’s aunt, after the aunt had tried to intervene a scuffle between Hitoshi and his wife.
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