Man with no intention to rent out flat listed it on Carousell to cheat others

·4-min read
(PHOTO: Carousell)
(PHOTO: Carousell)

SINGAPORE — A man who had no intention to rent out his flat listed it on Carousell in order to cheat interested customers of their money.

Lee Chee Tiong, 41, was jailed for 10 months on Tuesday (18 January) after he pleaded guilty to three out of eight counts of cheating, with the remaining taken into consideration for his sentencing.

The Singaporean - who had been a delivery driver for Shopee and earned over $3,000 a month - cheated $17,250 from eight different victims, causing them and their families “considerable inconvenience", the prosecution said.

“Many of the accused’s victims had brought their family members along to view the Bedok North Avenue 2 unit, and fully expected to move into the flat at short notice... The accused repeatedly put the victims off with a variety of excuses," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Siaw.

"Some of his victims did not even realise they had been cheated until the police contacted them, and were still waiting for his word as to when they could move in."

Made excuses after taking deposits

An Indian national saw Lee’s advertisement on Carousell on 16 January last year. Lee had offered to rent out his unit for $1,550 per month.

Two days later, the victim brought his wife and three-year-old daughter to view the unit and agreed to rent it from Lee. Lee got him to sign a written agreement purporting to set out the terms of the rental.

The next day, the victim transferred $3,000 to Lee’s bank account as a security deposit and one month’s rent. Lee replied that he would submit the victim’s family’s details to the Housing Development Board for registration.

On 21 January, the victim contacted Lee to check on the application and Lee claimed it was still being processed.

A few days later, Lee contacted the victim to request another two months’ rent in advance. The victim agreed but said he would make payment upon moving in. As the two could not agree on terms, the victim asked to cancel his rental agreement and a return of his money. Lee agreed.

On 25 January 2021 at midnight, Lee sent the victim a message saying that the latter could move in on 31 January. Suspicious, the victim lodged a police report at Bedok North Neighbourhood Police Centre.

On 12 January last year, another victim - an Indian national with a wife and two young children - responded to Lee’s advertisement as his own tenancy agreement was expiring. He placed a security deposit and one month’s rent of $3,100 with Lee. The victim viewed the unit with his wife and two children on 13 January, signing a tenancy agreement the next day.

However Lee kept delaying the paperwork until the victim also lodged a police report on 9 February.

A third victim, a female Singaporean, responded to Lee’s advertisement on 10 January last year, and signed an agreement to rent the unit for six months. She transferred him $3,750 as three months’ advance rent.

When the victim contacted Lee on 1 February to collect the keys, Lee claimed he had dengue and did not reply to her until 19 February, only to give more excuses for a delay.

On 24 February, the police called this woman to tell her that she had been duped.

Cheated to repay debts to unlicensed moneylenders

When interviewed by the police, Lee admitted that he never had any intention to rent out the unit. He had advertised it on Carousell just to raise money for his personal use, including to repay his debts to unlicensed moneylenders.

He had prepared rental agreements by looking for template agreements on Google and then printing them out.

Lee made partial restitution of $1,200 to the first victim, but did not repay the other two victims mentioned in court documents.

His lawyer Riko Isaac said that Lee was having difficulties supporting his family and had borrowed from licensed and unlicensed moneylenders.

Lee tried to rent out his home but decided to cheat enquirers after he received a "huge response" to his advertisement.

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