SINGAPORE — A part-time English teacher whose bank account was used to receive the funds from a love scam decided to hold on the money instead of transferring it to the scammer.
While Christina Cheong Yoke Lin had initially gotten away with about $50,000, she quickly lost most it when she fell for two other scams.
On Wednesday, the 63-year-old pleaded guilty to dishonestly misappropriating the money that had been transferred to her account. One count of possessing property which she believed to be the benefits from criminal conduct will be taken into consideration for her sentencing.
Met over dating app
Cheong first met a person known as “Collins” through the Badoo dating app in August 2017.
Later that month, she lied to Collins and told him that her handbag had been snatched by a “thief on a bike”. Claiming that she had lost money in the incident, she then asked for help in paying her rent.
Collins then suggested that Cheong let her bank account be used by his boss’ associates to receive money. Cheong would get to keep $500 but would have to withdraw the rest of the funds and deliver the money to Johor Baru.
Although she was curious as to why the money could not be paid directly into Collins’ boss’ account and wondered if she would get in trouble for carrying large sums of money, she still went ahead with the arrangement.
On 17 August that year, $50,030 was transferred into Cheong’s bank account by a 54-year-old Singaporean woman who believed she was helping her lover. The victim had transferred a total of $135,030 to a man known as “Andrew Wong”, whom she had met over Facebook, and was convinced the funds sent were going to him.
A sum of $30 was deducted by the bank as part of its fees. Collins then told Cheong to withdraw the remaining sum and that someone would later receive the money from her. He also warned Cheong not to use an ATM to withdraw the sum, which raised her suspicions.
Cheong later asked if the money was legal but did not get a clear answer. After another exchange between Collins and Cheong on 18 August, Cheong asked him, “Why do I want to raise eyebrows as to where the money came from?”.
She later ignored Collins’ phone calls and made excuses when the latter asked her to start withdrawing the money. On 27 August, Cheong fell out with Collins and he accused her of being a thief. By that time, Cheong had already spent some of the funds.
“In her responses to Collins... Cheong asked ‘Did we have a contractual agreement?’ and said, ‘We will see what the police will say about you using accounts for your payments’,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jun Chong.
Cheong was eventually nabbed after the 54-year-old love scam victim made a police report on 22 September 2017. On 6 May this year, Cheong made full restitution to the victim.
Used funds to pay of other scammers
On 21 August 2017, Cheong transferred $31,000 to a Malaysian bank account to help a man named “Mark Anthony”, whom Cheong was in love with. Mark Anthony had supposedly been detained by the Malaysian authorities for having too much money and needed funds to ensure his release.
Cheong also transferred $18,000 to a few foreign bank accounts supposedly belonging to another person named “Chong Lee”, who had promised her $800,000 in return for her help. This turned out to be an inheritance scam.
Cheong’s lawyer said that her client was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, which impaired her judgement at the time of the offences.
District Judge Ng Peng Hong called for Cheong to be assessed to see if she is suitable for a mandatory treatment order. Cheong will be back in court on 26 June.
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