SINGAPORE — Looking to pay off his debts and help his girlfriend’s family, a 29-year-old Singaporean man attempted to con money out of family members by telling them he was being held hostage by the “local mafia” in Vietnam.
While Vincent Lau Boon Kiat was not in any actual danger, he had asked for US$15,000 each (S$20,000) from his brother and mother. Despite his efforts, he received only $1,000.
Lau’s claims also led to the Singapore Police Force (SPF) working with Vietnam Interpol to investigate the case. He was arrested upon returning to Singapore on 20 March.
On Wednesday (10 July), Lau was jailed five months after pleading guilty to one charge of cheating his 24-year-old brother Lau Wei Jun of $1,000. Another charge of cheating his sibling of $500 was taken into consideration for his sentencing.
$1,000 transferred to accused
According to court documents, Lau Wei Jun was in Singapore on 27 Feburuary when he received a WhatsApp message from Lau Boon Kiat at around 6.18am.
The elder Lau, who was in Vietnam at the time, claimed that he needed to raise US$15,000 as someone had taken his passport and other belongings. He also said that he was being held hostage by the “local mafia” and could not leave safely.
Lau Boon Kiat sent similar messages to his mother Ng Siew Keng on the same day, again claiming that he had been kidnapped and would be released only if a sum of US$15,000 was paid.
Fearing for her elder son’s safety, Ng told Lau Wei Jun to transfer money to the accused. At about 7.45pm that day, Lau Wei Jun transferred $1,000 to his brother’s Singapore bank account.
SPF, Interpol probe
After failing multiple times to reach his brother, Lau Wei Jun then made a police report on the same day.
The Special Investigations Section of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Crisis Negotiation Unit of the SPF began investigating the case. The SPF also worked with Interpol to locate Lau Boon Kiat.
During this time, Lau Boon Kiat continued to send his brother and Ng messages for three days, asking for more money. In them, he claimed that his kidnappers would chop off his fingers or kill him if they did not receive the sum they asked for.
Investigators found that Lau Boon Kiat had travelled to Vietnam on 24 February and established that he was not in any actual danger. A total of 50 SPF officers were involved in the operation, which lasted from 27 February up to the time he was apprehended in Singapore.
Lau later admitted that he knowingly deceived his brother in order to obtain money to pay off his debts and to assist his girlfriend’s family. Lau has since made full restitution of the money he received from his brother.
For cheating, Lau could have been jailed 10 years and possibly fined on each charge.
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