Asia

Over 5 years' jail for serial cheat who scammed 17 victims of more than $550k in Ponzi scheme

SINGAPORE- A serial cheat who had “shown no moral compunctions about enriching himself (by) using deceptive means” – according to the prosecution – scammed 17 victims of more than $550,000 in a Ponzi scheme.

The conman, Joel Soon Yong Hao, was later charged in court and was out on bail when he committed more offences, including forging a letter purportedly from a Deputy Public Prosecutor from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

Details about this DPP were not disclosed in court documents.

On Thursday (Nov 10), Soon was sentenced to five years, two months and 12 weeks’ jail.

The 29-year-old Singaporean was also disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for three years.

He had been convicted of 20 charges for crimes including traffic offences and multiple counts of cheating.

The court heard that from May to July 2015, Soon operated an investment scam, claiming to be the chief executive and founder of a firm called Scarlett Strategies.

It purportedly provided event management services to wealthy clients.

DPP David Koh said: “The accused would claim that the business of Scarlett Strategies was to rent venues and sub-rent them to wealthy clients.

“He represented to the victims that if they were to invest with Scarlett Strategies, their principal would be utilised to provide services to clients and they would receive their principal and a 40 per cent profit in one week.”

In reality, Scarlett Strategies did not exist and there was no business in place to generate the promised returns.

Soon had, instead, run a Ponzi scheme and the only sources of cash were the victims’ investments.

He would use money from one investor to pay another. He also used the victims’ monies for his personal expenses.

The court heard that he did not invest any of their monies or use them for genuine business purposes.

DPP Koh told the court: “The accused made the representations to his victims either directly or through other victims, who he referred to as ‘leaders’ or ‘seekers’.

“He would incentivise these ‘leaders’ to find others to invest in his scheme by telling them that more investments would mean greater returns on the whole.”

A woman introduced one of the victims – her 54-year-old sister – to Soon’s purported investment scheme in May 2015.

The 54-year-old woman later handed over $48,500 and received $45,140 in “returns”. As a result, she suffered a net loss of $3,360.

Soon cheated his other victims in the Ponzi scheme by using a similar method, the court heard.

They suffered losses totalling more than $124,000.

The ruse began to unravel in July 2015 when he started to delay paying the purported returns to investors.

He was later charged in court and was out on bail when he returned to a life of crime.

In 2017, he conspired with a woman to commit criminal breach of trust involving more than $36,000 in cash – earnings of a supermarket where she worked.

The woman has since been sentenced to two months’ jail.

In another instance that year, Soon lied to another woman claiming that his father had died and that he needed cash to pay for the funeral expenses.

This female friend then took out a $150,000 loan from a bank and handed over the amount to Soon.

Some time in September 2019, he decided to obtain more money from the friend and sent her an image of a letter, purportedly from a DPP.

Soon then told her that he needed cash to supposedly settle some criminal proceedings.

It turned out that he had fraudulently altered a genuine letter by amending its contents while retaining information such as the DPP’s signature and the AGC’s letterhead.

The woman showed an acquaintance an image of the forged letter to ask for a loan. The acquaintance sensed that something was amiss and called the DPP who confirmed that he did not sign the document. The police were alerted soon after.

Separately, Soon also committed traffic offences including driving a car even though he was earlier disqualified from doing so.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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