Woman jailed 6 1/2 years for $1.3 million scam

Woman jailed 6 1/2 years for $1.3 million scam
Aileen Neo told her friend she could get better rates to convert a total of US$1 million into local currency.

A woman was jailed on Monday for 61/2 years for cheating a close friend of US$1 million (S$1.3 million), after claiming she could obtain a favourable foreign exchange rate for the funds.

The money belonged to a recycling company, and the friend acted as an intermediary to try to secure the better exchange rate.

In fact, the friend was given dud cheques and the funds - two cheques for US$500,000 (S$650,000) - simply disappeared.

Aileen Neo, 48, pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating Mr Hia Chye Kiang, 59, the husband of an employee of the recycling company, Soon Kim Hardware Trading Co, of the funds. The charges refer to Mr Hia as he handed the funds to Neo - even though they ultimately belonged to Soon Kim.

District Judge Soh Tze Bian said Soon Kim was fleeced in September 2011 of the US$1 million - worth about $1.3 million at the time - in a matter of days.

The judge said Neo had abused the trust of her close friends, Mr Hia and his wife, Ms Koh Gek Hwang, 50, who worked as an accounts clerk for Soon Kim, based in Defu Lane.

Neo had claimed that she could exchange the US$500,000 sums for $650,000 and $675,000 respectively. She issued dud cheques to the company.

"Till today, no one knows where the monies are. The monies could have been squandered or squirrelled away despite the accused person's denial in this regard," the judge said.

At an earlier hearing, Neo blamed fictitious third parties for the loss of the money.

She persisted with these allegations at a separate hearing held to resolve disputed points and ascertain the correct basis for sentencing.

"She has refused to come clean on the true whereabouts of the monies," the judge said.

The fact that the separate hearing was aborted "puts paid to both the accused person's insistence that non-existent third parties are to blame, as well as any notion that the accused person is at all remorseful for her actions", he said.

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