Man conned of $400k over 15 years

DECEIVED:Mr Tan, who is unable to stand up straight due to a spinal injury, juggles two jobs to repay money he thought he had owed the Government. The scam was devised by two women.

UPDATE: More than US$24,510 (S$33,000) have been raised online for a 70-year-old man who was scammed out of $400,000 over 15 years by two women.

The Straits Times reported today that Dan Chen, a man who works in an international school, had created a campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo on Sunday to help Mr Tan Soy Kiang.

His goal was to raise US$5,000 (S$6,700) but by Monday morning, more than US$14,000 had been raised by 442 people, said The Straits Times.

A check by AsiaOne at 5.10pm today showed a sum of US$24,510 already raised by 728 people on Dan Chen's page.

Two other Indiegogo pages also raising money for Mr Tan were found - one by a Leonard Chen who has raised US$100 so far with the same goal of US$5,000, and a Roger Choo C K who has raised US$2,090 so far with a goal of $50,000.

All three started their fund raising on Feb 7.

SINGAPORE - Tan Soy Kiang, 70, had been paying off a debt he was told he owed.

Even after taking on two jobs and handing over $53,000 of his retirement savings, Mr Tan struggled to make good.

For 15 years, he had to borrow money from neighbours and his 73-year-old sister to survive, because his income went to servicing the debt.

No one noticed until his niece returned from Australia in 2013, and found out that Mr Tan, who is single and used to live alone, has been the victim of a malicious scam.

Two Singaporean women allegedly got him to hand over all the money he earned for a non-existent debt they claim he owes the Government.

It is believed that Mr Tan, whom his niece describes as being simple-minded, was conned into giving more than $400,000 of his hard- earned money.

He was never told how much he actually owed, but he trusted the women whom he had known for years.

And he believed them when they said he would be in serious trouble if he did not pay up.

"My uncle was constantly hungry and was always borrowing money from my mother and the residents in Kim Keat Avenue," real estate agent Pamela Lim, 39, told The New Paper.

"He has two jobs. There is no way he doesn't have enough money to take care of himself."

Now, one of the women has been arrested for cheating and the other is assisting police with their investigation, the police said.

Mr Tan, who cannot stand up straight due to a spinal injury, works as a cleaner from 7am to 11.30am along Kim Keat Avenue. He is paid about $1,000.

He doubles as a pump attendant at the Esso station along Lorong 2 in Toa Payoh from 4pm to 10.30pm, also for $1,000.

Every month, one of the two women would wait near the petrol station on his pay day or the next morning in Kim Keat Avenue to collect the money.

The women, aged 65 and 69, allegedly told Mr Tan that he owed money to the Government and that he has to settle the debt through them.

Mr Tan's ordeal only came to light when Ms Lim returned from Australia after living there for 15 years and discovered that he was giving every cent he earned to the two women.

Her uncle said in Teochew: "At first I told her I used to have a failed business, that I'm still paying up the bad debt, but she didn't believe me and kept on and on at me until I confessed what was really happening."

Ms Lim called the two women and set up a meeting a year ago. She confronted them and they allegedly confessed in a video which The New Paper has seen. The police has a copy of the video.

Ms Lim wanted "to settle the matter amicably" and have them return the money.

"I got them to confess on video what they did and even had them agree they would pay my uncle back. We were nice enough to agree that they return $500 a month.

"After that we went to make a police report. Unfortunately, my uncle was deemed a willing party then," she recalled.

The police said that on Feb 3 last year, a 39-year-old woman lodged a police report that her 70-year-old uncle had been handing money to two women for some time. But he told police that he had been doing so on his own accord as a private loan, so assistance from police was not required.

Despite promising to stop their alleged extortion, the women started again in August.

Frustrated, Ms Lim spoke to The New Paper and made another police report.

On Wednesday, Ms Lim handed over the videos and the police initiated investigations, before arresting one of the women on Saturday for cheating.

Mr Tan's colleagues at the petrol station had seen the two women coming round to look for him, but did not know why.

He had no idea how to get out of his predicament, and was too afraid to tell anyone. He now lives with Ms Lim, who is looking after him.

Criminal lawyer Luke Lee said this is probably a case of cheating and the women can be charged under Section 420 of the Penal Code.

"Each time he hands over the money, it is one count of cheating. He has handed over his monthly salary in a period of 15 years. We are looking at multiple counts and it will (likely) be a custodial sentencing," Mr Lee said.

Anyone found guilty faces a fine and can be jailed for up to 10 years.

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.