Trying to settle his debts and help his girlfriend's family, a man lied to his family members that he had been kidnapped.
Yesterday, Vincent Lau Boon Kiat, 29, was jailed for five months on a charge of cheating.
A second cheating charge involving another $500 was considered during sentencing.
A total of 50 officers from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) were involved in the operation, which lasted about three weeks, because of his lie.
In February, Lau's younger brother, 24, who was a student at a local university, received a WhatsApp message from Lau.
At the time, Lau was in Vietnam, having travelled there about three days earlier.
Lau told his brother he needed help to raise money as someone had taken his passport and other belongings and was demanding US$15,000 (S$20,400) from him. He later told his brother the "local mafia" were holding him hostage and he did not think he could leave the place safely. He told his mother the same story via WhatsApp messages.
She told her younger son to transfer money to Lau, and later that night, his brother transferred $1,000 to him. After his brother could not reach Lau, he called the police.
Special units in the SPF were then activated, and they contacted Vietnam Interpol to locate Lau. Even after the investigations had commenced, Lau continued to deceive his family members by claiming the "local mafia" would chop off his fingers and were threatening to kill him if they did not receive the money.
The messages continued over a period of three days.
Lau was arrested upon his return to Singapore in March. He had received a total of $1,500 from his family and full restitution has been made.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Genevieve Pang said the Special Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Crisis Negotiation Unit of the SPF were activated.
She added: "The SPF also liaised with Vietnam Interpol to establish the whereabouts of the accused.
"After the investigations had commenced, the accused continued to deceive (his family members) by sending them messages claiming that the 'local mafia' would chop off his fingers and were threatening to kill him if they did not receive the money.
"The accused continued sending these messages to the victim over a period of three days."
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.