Woman who laundered scam proceeds for online lover jailed 40 months

Le had been so enamoured with a scammer named "William Branch" that the continued to assist in the latter's money laundering activities even after being interviewed by the police. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A woman who was conned into becoming a money mule by her online lover was jailed 40 months on Wednesday (19 June).

The 48-year-old Madam Le had been so enamoured with a scammer named “William Banch” – whom she had never met in person – that she continued to assist in the latter’s money laundering activities even after being interviewed by the police.

At the State Courts on Wednesday (19 June), the former casino dealer pleaded guilty to two charges of knowingly receiving the benefits of criminal conduct and one count of removing the proceeds from its jurisdiction.

Another 37 charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for Le’s sentencing.

Accused was also a scam victim: lawyer

Le’s lawyer Amarjit Singh told the court that his client was herself the victim of a scam.

William and Le had met over the Skout app in January 2015. Le, who had previously been in an abusive relationship, fell for William – who “showered her with affection, constant reassurances, and honeyed words”.

Even though they had never met in person, his actions left her “emotionally dependent on him”.

“William had expressed his intentions to marry Madam Le and take in her children as his own, including Madam Le’s mother. Madam Le trusted him to the fullest extent, believing that he would never cause her harm because he truly loved her,” said Singh.

Bank account used for money laundering

Two months after they met, William asked Le to open an OCBC bank account for him and to send him the ATM card. Despite her misgivings, Le did so and sent him the bank details and card on 12 March.

William used the account to first receive the criminal proceeds – some $2,000 from another scam victim – which were then withdrawn in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Le also agreed to receive monies on William’s behalf in Singapore. On at least eight occasions between 5 March and 18 June 2015, Le had over $317,000 from scam victims. The funds were either transferred into her bank account or handed over in person.

After receiving the funds, Le would then head to Johor where she would hand the money to William’s designated agent. During this period, she was given $3,000 from the proceeds for her help.

On 11 May, OCBC closed the bank account due to suspicious activity.

Interviewed by police

Le was interviewed by the police on 19 June over suspected money laundering activities.

She told the police that she did not want to keep in contact with William as she did not want to be involved in anything illegal. Le also claimed that she did not know that William was involved in illegal activities or cheating others.

The police then advised Le to break off contact with William and to not assist him any further.

Following the interview, Le told William that she could not help him anymore.

Barely two months after her police interview, however, Le went back to helping William. She received $855,836.81 from two scam victims in three bank accounts belonging to herself, her sister and her mother.

Between 5 September and 2 November 2015, Le handed over $851,762 to William’s agent. Le was given $4,000 by William as “transport fees”.

None of the monies transferred by the victims have been recovered.

Accused had ‘misguided trust’ in scammer: lawyer

Asking for 40 months’ jail, the prosecution noted that Le had persisted in helping William even after being notified of the illegal activities by OCBC and the police.

Seeking not more than 30 months’ jail for Le, Singh said that his client had been reluctant to be involved in illegal activities but had “done so out of her misguided trust in William with whom she genuinely believed she was in a safe and loving relationship”.

Le’s low level of education and basic understanding of English and Mandarin, along with her kindness and belief in people also made her vulnerable to William’s scam, said Singh.

For her offences, Le could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined up to $500,000 or both.

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