Man who used forged court documents to cheat ex-colleague of $4 million jailed 9 years

·Senior Reporter
Cheong had cheated 65-year-old Eddy Tan, whom he had formerly worked with at a bank.
Cheong Eh Meng spent his ill-gotten gains on luxury purchases, paying off debts and funding his gambling habits. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

He cheated a former bank colleague of almost $4 million in an elaborate scheme, which included the use of forged court seals.

Cheong Eh Meng spent his ill-gotten gains on luxury purchases, paying off debts and funding his gambling habits. The 55-year-old’s crimes led to the victim, 65-year-old Eddy Tan, losing his life savings and his home.

For his offences – which include cheating, forging a record of a court of justice and possessing a counterfeit seal – Cheong was sentenced to nine years’ jail on Thursday (14 February).

He had pleaded guilty to 29 charges while 191 charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for his sentence.

Cheated former colleague

Cheong had cheated 65-year-old Eddy Tan, whom he had formerly worked with at a bank. The two had lost touch after Cheong was retrenched in 1997 but became reacquainted in 2011.

In May 2011, Cheong – who had been declared bankrupt in 2000 – persuaded Tan to participate in an investment scheme, which purportedly generated revenue from overseas casino games.

The following month, Cheong lied to Tan that he had been detained by customs officials in the Philippines and could not collect “investment proceeds” from the scheme. Cheong duped Tan into transferring $6,200 to the former’s wife under the pretence of securing his release.

Cheong, however, used the money to gamble in the Philippines.

Over the next 26 months, Cheong continued to lie to Tan about how their investment returns had been frozen in overseas bank accounts due to outstanding debts, fines and costs arising from other legal proceedings.

To support his lies, Cheong forged court orders from the Supreme Court, the then-Subordinate Courts, as well as letters issued by the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO).

He digitally altered court orders that he had received before his bankruptcy and inserted names of Supreme Court judges that he found online.

Cheong also forged letters from the IPTO by making digital scans of his bankruptcy documents, which contained official logos, letterheads and signatures. He then used software to manipulate the letters’ contents and hid flaws in the constructed documents with correction tape.

The final steps involved pasting the template onto a single sheet of paper and then making a photocopy of the document.

Travelled overseas for counterfeit seals

Besides the forgeries, Cheong also sent fraudulent text messages to Tan from various numbers claiming to be representatives of foreign government authorities.

He even travelled to Malaysia to procure counterfeit seals bearing the words “Supreme Court” and “Subordinate Court”, which he would use to stamp his forged court orders.

Believing Cheong, Tan transferred a total of $3,949,989 to the former within a span of more than two years.

Only $153,819.30 was recovered during investigations, along with seven watches. No restitution has been made for the remaining sum.

Victim lost life savings

On Thursday, Cheong’s lawyer Lee Wei Liang told the court in mitigation that Cheong was remorseful for his actions, given his plea of guilt and his cooperation with the authorities. Noting Cheong’s age, Lee asked for a sentence of eight years’ jail.

“In view of the prescribed punishments for Cheong’s offences, the lengthy custodial sentence which Cheong faces would be a substantial proportion of his remaining life,” he said.

“Cheong would likely feel hopeless about the prospects of his post-release rehabilitation and reintegration, given the short time he will likely have left to re-connect with his family and make amends to society.”

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chong Yonghui said that Cheong’s offences persisted over a long time period and were premeditated.

DPP Chong also pointed out the Tan’s losses.

“The harm caused to Tan is substantial and far-reaching, resulting in not only the loss of his home and all his life savings, but extending into forcing him, a 65-year-old man, to continue to work in order to pay off his debts,” said Chong.

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