I cheated cleaner but it was $30,000, not $400,000

I cheated cleaner but it was $30,000, not $400,000
ACCUSED: Madam Tan Hwee Ngo (L) and Madam Boo Sok Hiang (R) are pointing the finger at each other in the cheating case.

One of the two women accused of conning a cleaner of $400,000 over 15 years has admitted to cheating him.

But Madam Tan Hwee Ngo, 65 insisted that she took only $30,000 from Mr Tan Soy Kiang, a 70-year-old who thought he was servicing a debt that he owed the Government.

She told The New Paper in her flat at Indus Road yesterday: "Yes, I did cheat Mr Tan and I know it was wrong."

Speaking candidly of her love for mahjong, which saddled her with debt, Madam Tan said in Mandarin: "I used to play mahjong a lot when I was younger.

"I played so much that I owed more than $10,000."

Driven by her debt, she started cheating Mr Tan together with her friend, Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 69, more than 10 years ago.

Her long-time friend, Madam Boo, had introduced her to Mr Tan, whom the latter had known for many years.

Madam Tan said: "I was the one who came up with the scheme to take his money, but Madam Boo was in on it."

But Madam Boo maintained her innocence and claimed she had also been conned.

Madam Tan is out on police bail after she was arrested. Madam Boo is assisting the police in their investigations.

They stopped only after Mr Tan's niece, Ms Pamela Lim, 39, confronted them at a fast-food outlet in February last year.

Madam Tan said: "Ms Lim told us that we could settle this the nice way or the ugly way.

"And if we refused to repay his money, she would tell the media about us."

She said that she signed a contract, which was written in English. Though she could not read it, she understood that she was to return Mr Tan's money in monthly instalments of $500.

She claimed that she had been doing so on the fifth of every month since then.

"I've been paying for a year now. I've already returned at least $5,000."

Madam Tan said that she did not sign the contract under duress.

"Ms Lim did not force me to sign it," she said.

But she refuted Ms Lim's claim that the pair had swindled Mr Tan of $400,000.

"It can't be that much. I took only $30,000 at most," she said.

Her version of events contradicted what she had told Shin Min Daily News.

The Chinese evening newspaper quoted Madam Tan as denying having tricked Mr Tan into handing over his money.

She also said she was forced to sign the contract as she was afraid of Ms Lim.

Madam Tan's son, 27, who was not named in the Shin Min report, claimed that she only took amounts ranging from $400 to $600 from Mr Tan for six months until she cleared her mahjong debt.

But Madam Boo continued cheating Mr Tan and handing his money to Madam Tan, he alleged.

Madam Tan said that ever since the story broke, she has been getting stares from her neighbours.

As TNP was leaving, she asked: "Nothing will happen to me, right?"

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