Taiwanese duo jailed for acting as money mules for international syndicate

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Two Taiwanese men who came to Singapore and acted as money mules for an international syndicate were jailed on Thursday (8 March).

For their actions, Wang Wei Ciang, 24, and Wang Wei-Ming, 25, received sentences of three years and three-and-a-half years at the State Courts after pleading guilty to one count each of abetment by conspiracy to assist another to retain criminal proceeds.

The men, who are not related, had worked for a syndicate carrying out police impersonation scams.

Wei Ciang’s role in the scam

Sometime in July last year, Wei Ciang was offered a job while in Taiwan that would pay between NT$40,000 (S$1,760) and NT$50,000 (S$2,245). He was told he would have to travel to Singapore and that his expenses would be fully paid for. He agreed, and arrived in Singapore on 1 August 2017.

Before leaving Taiwan, he was given further instructions via a chat app by a person named “Da Li”. Wei Ciang did not know, nor did he ever meet, Da Li in person. Da Li would instruct Wei Ciang on where to go and who to meet while the latter was in Singapore.

Wei Ciang’s role in the scam was to collect cash from scam victims and deliver the money to Wei-Ming, who met the former in Singapore and handed him $2,000 for the former’s living expenses. The two had never met previously and them money came from Wei-Ming’s own pocket, with the promise that he would later be reimbursed by the syndicate.

From 2 to 8 August last year, Wei Ciang collected a total of $254,800 in cash from various locations around the country. On 8 August, while collecting a package from a victim, Wei Ciang was arrested at the meeting point.

Wei-Ming’s role

Wei-Ming’s role in the scam was to collect cash from other money mules and pass it on to another party.

He was recommended for the job while in Taiwan and was promised NT$100,000 (S$4,490) for his work, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Foo Shi Hao. Although he suspected it could be criminal in nature, Wei-Ming agreed to take up the job, and flew to Singapore on 31 July 2017.

When he arrived in Singapore, he bought a local SIM card and was added into a WhatsApp chat group populated by people he did not know, and from which he received instructions on where to collect money from various people.

Between 2 and 7 August last year, Wei-Ming met Wei Ciang on several occasions and collected cash from him. Wei-Ming had been instructed via the WhatsApp chat group to ensure that the transactions were carried out in secluded places.

In total, Wei-Ming collected $663,250 from Wei Ciang and several other parties. Throughout the process, Wei-Ming believed the money was obtained from illegal sources.

From 1 to 8 August last year, Wei-Ming met another man, Tay Kai Wen, on several occasions during which he handed over $650,000 in cash to the latter. Tay was jailed six months in November last year for his role in the scam.

Wei-Ming was arrested on 8 August last year at a hotel in Chinatown. A total of $13,250 was seized at the time.

A total of $180,100 from the money collected were later declared the proceeds of criminal conduct against four police impersonation scam victims.

DPP Foo sought a jail term of 40 months for Wei Ciang and 45 months for Wei-Ming. He stressed a need for the frustration of police impersonation scams which “have caused great harm to Singapore society”. He said the two men were part of a syndicate carrying out such crimes.

In mitigation, lawyer Leon Koh, who acted for both men, said Wei Ciang was a “country bumpkin” who had never travelled out of Taiwan before. He did not think the job was illegal and did not open the envelopes to see what he was collecting and delivering, said Koh.

Wei Ciang had merely followed the instructions given to him and had no association with the syndicate, nor did he know where the money came from or where it went to, said Koh. He also did not reap any personal benefits apart from the $2,000 for his living expenses and is “completely broke now”, added the lawyer.

Both men also have no previous convictions and cooperated with police investigations, said Koh who asked for jail terms of 24 months and 30 months, respectively, for Wei Ciang and Wei-Ming.

District Judge (DJ) Terence Tay said that the facts of the case showed how many unknown parties were involved in such scams. In addition, money mules made it difficult for the perpetrators to be detected, said DJ Tay.

Sentencing Wei Ciang to 36 months’ jail, he noted that Wei Ciang’s involvement was on a more limited scale because he was under the impression that what he was doing was legitimate.

The judge sentenced Wei-Ming to 42 months’ jail, saying that his involvement in the syndicate’s activities was more serious. Wei-Ming was aware that he would be engaging in illicit activities in Singapore, said the judge.

The two men’s jail terms were backdated to 10 August 2017. For their crimes, each could have been jailed up to five years, fined, or both.

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