Man jailed for cheating colleague of $136,000, impersonating police officer to scam prostitute

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SINGAPORE — A former navy regular who cheated a prostitute by impersonating a police officer and a colleague was sentenced to 30 months’ jail on Tuesday (1 October).

Tan Shi Feng, 30, targetted the sex worker, believing that the victim would not report to the police as she was involved in illegal activity.

To fuel his gambling habit, Tan fed lies to a colleague, including that his wife had run into financial difficulties or had been kidnapped. He also conspired with his brother to cheat the colleague of more money. In total, the colleague was cheated of $136,000.

Tan pleaded guilty to six counts of cheating and cheating by personation, with seven other charges of a similar nature taken into consideration for sentencing.

Tan conspired with two others - Liu Aik Kang, 25, and Hu Zhihao, 26 - to cheat a 31-year-old prostitute who provided illegal sexual services.

Hu and Tan met in the Navy, while Hu introduced Liu to Tan. Liu has since been jailed 14 months and two weeks, while Hu’s case is pending.

In early June last year, the trio came up with a plan to cheat prostitutes by impersonating police officers. While discussing the plan, Tan suggested using notepads, ziplock bag and gloves, while Liu proposed bringing along a video camera.

Tan instructed Hu and Liu to purchase a SIM card to call the victim. They later came across the prostitute’s online advertisement and arranged to meet her on 23 June last year.

Tan briefed Hu and Liu on their roles and said he would first enter the prostitute’s unit by pretending to be a genuine customer.

After making sure that no one else was inside, he would signal to Hu and Liu, and get the prostitute to open the door by saying that he needed his wallet. The other two would then enter and declare themselves to be policemen while Tan also assumed the same fake identity. Tan had handed his Navy camp pass to Liu so that the latter can use it and pretend to be a policeman.

At about 11.40pm, the trio carried out their plan. They managed to remove $15,000 in cash and an Apple iPhone worth $600 from the prostitute’s unit. They split the cash among themselves and disposed of the iPhone.

A police report was lodged and the trio were arrested on 24 June. Only $3,050 was recovered.

Over several months in 2017, Tan also cheated his colleague Soh, 31, as he was mired in gambling debts.

Tan approached Soh at Tuas Naval Base, their workplace, on 16 July 2017 and lied that his wife June had encountered financial difficulties in her business in Indonesia. He asked for a sum of $7,000, adding that June intended to divorce him and bring their children to Jakarta if Tan did not help her. Soh transferred to Tan $7,000 later that day.

On 7 August, at their workplace, Tan told Soh he was able to pay him an interest of $8,000 and return the monies which he owed if Soh were to lend him an additional $38,000.

Soh sent him the sum and the two drew up a record. Tan did not intend to return the money and instead used it to gamble and repay his debts.

On 3 September, Tan impersonated June and texted Soh, claiming that “her” business was still facing difficulties and needed more money. “June” told Soh not to inform anyone in the navy about her situation as it might affect Tan’s career.

The next month, on 10 November, Tan sent Soh text messages claiming that June had been kidnapped and required a ransom of $30,000. He claimed that he had managed to raise $16,000 but still needed $14,000.

While Soh was initially reluctant to help, Tan lied that June was in a dangerous situation. Soh later transferred the money.

Tan also roped in his elder brother, Jaguar Tan, to cheat Soh. Jaguar and Tan met Soh on 15 October purportedly to discuss repaying him for the monies owed.

During the conversation, Jaguar showed Tan a picture of baby with tubes attached was his son. He also showed a newspaper article describing his son’s supposed medical condition. Jaguar asked for a loan as he could not get financial help. Tan corroborated his brother’s lies.

Even though he was reluctant, Soh transferred $35,000 to Jaguar that day. Jaguar transferred $17,290 to Tan for him to repay his gambling debts, then used the remaining sum to pay loans and gambled the rest away.

Out of the $136,000 cheated from Soh, only $2,000 has been returned.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Wei Liang sought 32 months’ jail, characterising Tan as the “leader of the group” who played the biggest role.

Lawyer T M Sinnadurai said Tan was not the mastermind, adding that all three men who cheated the sex worker were equally culpable.

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