Couple pocketed $11,500 in car-sale charade

Civil engineer Kankanamge Dayasena and his wife met a car salesman in Little India some 20 months ago and signed an agreement to sell their vehicle.

The very next day, the couple met a different dealer. Again they signed papers to sell their Toyota Vios, and again, they collected a good-faith deposit from the car dealer.

It was no mistake. Over the next six weeks, the duo tried to sell the vehicle to another eight firms - pocketing $11,500 in deposits along the way, for transactions they had no intention of completing.

Yesterday Kankanamge, 56, had his appeal against numerous cheating convictions and a 14-month jail term turned down in the High Court.

Both the Sri Lankan and his unemployed Singaporean wife, Rita Metha, had fought 10 counts of cheating with common intention, but were found guilty by a district court after a five-day joint trial. Metha, 28, did not file an appeal.

Saying yesterday that his work as a consultant engineer paid some $7,000 a month, Kankanamge told the court he would not have been involved in cheating cases involving such small sums.

He maintained his defence during the trial that his had been a case of mistaken identity, and that he had met only one of the 10 dealers.

Citing the trial judge's reasoning, however, deputy public prosecutors Victor Lim, Cheryl Lim and Foong Leong Parn said this was impossible since each of the firms targeted had spent some time negotiating terms with the couple.

The prosecutors added that Kankanamge, a first-time offender, had not shown any remorse or offered to make restitution to his victims.

"The dealers were just running their businesses," DPP Victor Lim said. "They trusted Kankanamge and paid him the deposits, trusting he would complete the sales."

The couple committed the cheating offences between Sept 29 and Nov 11, 2012, each time taking between $500 and $2,000 in cash or cheques from their victims.

Whenever terms had been agreed, Metha would sign the necessary documents as the car was in her name.

But the paperwork would hit a snag every time, when a finance firm, citing discrepancies with her signature in its records, withheld necessary information.

The sale would eventually fall through after the couple dragged their feet on resolving the matter. They would cut off contact when the dealers demanded the return of the deposits.

The maximum penalty for cheating and dishonestly inducing a delivery of property is a jail term of 10 years and a fine.

This article was published on May 17 in The Straits Times.

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