The eBay retailer claimed he could buy exclusive Lego sets not yet available in Singapore, and at prices up to 30 per cent cheaper than the suggested retail price.
The catch: A two-month waiting period, with buyers having to pay him first.
For 12 adult Lego fans, including one toy store co-owner, the offer seemed like a good deal.
But now, more than six months after they collectively paid him more than $36,000 for about 200 sets, they claim there is still no sign of the plastic bricks.
The eBay retailer, Mr Gary Tang, 43, who does not deny the delays, said he has not had time to deliver some of the sets.
Student Brian Cheang, 20, claimed to have paid Mr Tang close to $11,000 over four occasions between October and November last year.
Mr Cheang claimed he had received only four Lego sets so far, and that Mr Tang owed him more than 90 more, including an Imperial Shuttle and five R2-D2 models from the premium Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series.
Said Mr Cheang: "In February, he told me the sets were delayed because of bad weather.
"Then in March, he said a lot of sets had arrived at his warehouse, but he didn't have time to go through the boxes and so I'd have to wait. "I even offered to help him go through the boxes, but he said 'no' because there was someone else working at the warehouse who wouldn't like it."
Mr Cheang said attempts to resolve the matter through eBay did not help, because the online retailer has a 45-day refund policy.
By the time anyone tried to contact Mr Tang, more than two months had passed since the transaction.
Also, payment had to be done through bank transfer, instead of Paypal which eBay recommends. Mr Tang's account, sg_dude, has been suspended and can no longer be seen by the public.
For toy store managing director Huang Xinying, what started out as a favour to a friend has meant complications for her business operations, along with nearly $16,000 being paid to Mr Tang.
Mr Tang, who runs a business making acrylic Lego display cases, had been supplying cases to her shop in Bugis Junction since October last year.
In February, he told her he could get sets not yet available in Singapore, and for a slightly lower price.
She claimed he had told her that if they could share the shipment cost, it would make shipping in the sets cheaper for him too. Said Ms Huang: "I thought I wouldn't mind since the prices are comparable to my supplier, and I'd be helping a friend."
But products which were supposed to arrive in April came only in June, and at the rate of one or two boxes a week. Ms Huang claimed she could not remember the full details of her order.
"The worst part was that he would bring the sets down, then tell me he owes someone else a set, and that the person would be coming to take it from my shop. And I allowed him to (do that).
"Maybe I'm soft, but I thought I'd help him out as a friend," she said.
In August, the buyers realised it had been nearly six months and there was still no sign of the Lego sets.
Each of the five members of the group contacted Ms Huang through Facebook, since she was a well-known member of the Lego community, and Mr Tang had said he was a supplier to her shop.
"When all of them contacted me, I was shocked," Ms Huang said. "That's when I knew something far bigger was going on here."
Eleven of the 12 who had paid Mr Tang have made police reports, the group told TNP.
A police spokesman confirmed reports had been lodged, and said investigations were ongoing.
I even offered to help him go through the boxes, but he said 'no' because there was someone else working at the warehouse who wouldn't like it.
IF I WERE A SCAMMER, I'D HAVE RUN AWAY
The man in the middle of the Lego storm claimed it was an additional service for friends and regular customers, and that he was doing them a favour.
When The New Paper contacted Mr Gary Tang, he agreed to meet us to set the record straight. His main business is making acrylic cases, said the 43-year-old.
He started a "buy for you" service some time in October last year, so local collectors could own Lego sets at reasonable prices.
"To me, it was about promoting Lego and helping people own sets. But it turns out all people are out for is a cheap deal, and some are even making a profit out of it.
"I don't earn any money from this. In fact, I'm even using my own time to sort out the sets and to deliver it to people's homes," he claimed.
It is not that he does not want to deliver on his promises, he said. But when he took the orders, he did not expect his acrylic business to go up nearly four times.
His business is home-based and all his cases are handmade in his Housing Board flat in Ubi. He said that after designing the cases, he uses a chloroform solution to melt the acrylic, joining the pieces together by hand.
The married father of two said he, too, deserves family and personal time.
"By the time I get my son to bed, it's already close to 11pm. How many boxes do you think I can deliver then?"
The boxes are all in a storage area - he did not want to reveal where - and the sets are all jumbled up, so he needs time to sort them out, he claimed.
Asked why he did not take a day or two off work to sort out the matter, he asked: "And who's going to pay my bills for the next month?"
He insisted that his personal delivery of the Lego sets was the most efficient method.
"If you have a meet-up, there are sure (to be some people) who wouldn't show up. And by then, I would have wasted one day of my time," he said.
He had already stated on the eBay page that buyers would have to wait for their Lego sets.
But a six-month wait?
"If I really had the intention of scamming them, I would have run away with the money in the very beginning. Why wait till now and stay here?"
He claimed he had never defaulted on any delivery. What about the toy shop in Bugis?
"I thought that since we were friends, I'd let (Ms Huang) take the sets and cases first. And I even gave the shop priority. Between friends, you wouldn't want to keep a record of everything," he said.
Despite saying that he does not have the contact details of some who ordered from him, Mr Tang never denied the outstanding orders. He acknowledged that he owed them about $40,000 worth of Lego sets.
"If these people had asked nicely, I would have worked harder towards getting them their items. But then they started doing all these things," he said.
Pulling out his mobile phone, he showed a text message from a customer.
The message had his full name, identity card number, home address, car licence plate number and make of car, with text that said: "Double check arh... (sic) Your details correct?"
He said: "All of them sent me this message at the same time. What am I supposed to make of this?"
While he knows about the police reports, Mr Tang said the police have not contacted him yet.
An option for him now is to raise $40,000 to pay the group before sorting out the boxes when his schedule permits.
He said: "They might not agree, but I don't think I'm doing anything wrong."
If these people had asked nicely, I would've worked harder towards getting them their items.
This article was first published on October 21, 2014.
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