Tourist jailed for cheating money changer US$3,000 through sleight of hand

Amir Hussain
·Senior Reporter
Yepez Perez Jacinto German, 48, pleaded guilty to one charge of cheating. (Photo: Getty)
Yepez Perez Jacinto German, 48, pleaded guilty to one charge of cheating. (Photo: Getty)

SINGAPORE — A hotel and night club owner from Ecuador cheated a money changer in Singapore of US$3,000 via a quick sleight of hand, a court heard.

But it wasn’t long before the money changer realised the trick and viewed CCTV footage before calling the police to report Yepez Perez Jacinto German’s fast hand.

Officers later found the cash in his hotel room.

At the State Courts on Friday (18 October), German, 48, was jailed for five months after he pleaded guilty to one cheating charge.

Tried to cheat first money changer

On 7 August, at about 1.25pm, German and another man from Ecuador, Toaquiza Vilcacundo Jaime Rodrigo, 51, a clothing wholesaler, went to a money changer at Hillion mall along Petir Road.

There, Rodrigo handed the money changer a stack of US dollars of various denominations to be changed to Singapore currency.

At the same time, German queued behind another customer.

The money changer asked for Rodrigo’s passport as the amount involved in the transaction exceeded S$5,000.

“The co-accused then aborted the transaction, took his money back and left the money changer,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Ying Ming.

Shortly after, German left as well.

Used sleight of hand on victim

The duo then headed to another money changer at Bukit Panjang Plaza along Jelebu Road.

There, Rodrigo handed the victim a stack of US dollars in US$10, US$20 and US$100 denominations to be changed to Singapore currency.

Rodrigo told the money changer that the cash amounted to US$5,000. But the victim counted the money and told Rodrigo that the total amount was US$4,990. The victim then ran the cash through a money counting machine, which also tallied the amount as US$4,990.

At this juncture, German walked into the shop, took a bottle of water and some sweets, and waited at the cashier to pay the victim for the items. German’s role was to serve as a look-out while Rodrigo performed the sleight of hand, the court heard.

Rodrigo then asked the victim for his stack of money back on the pretext of counting the cash. Rodrigo also asked for a piece of paper on which the victim had earlier noted the denominations and total amount.

“While the victim turned his head to retrieve the said paper, (Rodrigo) retrieved 30 pieces of US$100 bills from the stack of money through a quick sleight of hand and placed the 30 pieces of US$100 bills amounting to US$3,000 into his left pocket,” said DPP Lim.

“The victim then simultaneously attended to (German) who was at the cashier waiting to pay for the items that he took,” the prosecutor added.

The victim then returned to serving Rodrigo. Without recounting the stack of money that Rodrigo handed back to him, the victim proceeded to change US$4,990 to S$6,736.50, at the exchange rate of US$1 to S$1.35.

Both Rodrigo and German then left the money changer.

As a result of the trick, the victim, who was alone at the shop, suffered a loss of US$3,000, or S$4,050.

When the victim realised the trick, he called the police saying, “He took back the money from me $3,000 USD which I didn’t realise as his hand is fast.” He also said the incident had been captured on CCTV.

For cheating, German could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Rodrigo’s case is set to be heard later this month.

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