Volunteer stole $25,000 from retiree, wife

Volunteer stole $25,000 from retiree, wife
Gay used an ATM bank card belonging to Mr Sai (above) and withdrew $24,520 from the savingsw account that the retiree held jointly with his wife.

SINGAPORE - A 50-year-old man who was volunteering at an activity centre for seniors was asked by a retiree to help him withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM).

But instead of returning the 80-year-old's ATM bank card after making the withdrawal, Gay Chin Yin took advantage of the older man's poor eyesight and handed him a fake bank card.

Gay used Mr Sai Bee Cheng's bank card and stole a total of $24,520 from his savings account over a period of two months, leaving only $2.69 behind.

Yesterday, Gay was sentenced to 42 weeks in jail after pleading guilty to seven theft charges, with 12 more taken into consideration.

The court heard that the divorcee had met Mr Sai while volunteering at the Sunlove Senior Activity Centre in Marsiling.

Gay, a former commercial signboard artist, would help clean Mr Sai's flat on an ad-hoc basis.

On Aug 26 last year, Mr Sai - whose age and heart condition prevent him from walking far - asked Gay to help him withdraw $500 from a joint savings account he shared with his wife. He gave him a slip of paper with his personal identification number, or PIN, written on it.

Gay did as he was asked, but also withdrew $300 for himself from Mr Sai's bank account. He then gave a fake bank card to Mr Sai, who did not suspect that he had been duped.

His ATM card remained with Gay, who went on to make 18 more cash withdrawals from Mr Sai's account between Aug 28 and Oct 22 last year.

Defence lawyers said yesterday that Gay, who has a history of schizophrenia, had not been able to afford treatment for his condition for almost a year before he was remanded.

They also urged the court to impose a six-week term, saying he intends to continue volunteering with the activity centre after finishing his jail term.

The prosecution called for a jail term of 12 to 15 months.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy said Gay had deceived his victim, a vulnerable elderly man, and had engaged in some planning to commit the offences. He had betrayed Mr Sai's trust and wiped out the life savings of the victim and his wife.

Gay could have been jailed up to three years and fined for each of the charges of theft.

pohian@sph.com.sg

This article was published on June 14 in The Straits Times.

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