S’porean jailed for cyber-terrorising US singer

He threatened to kill her and rape or kill her sister.

He called her autistic brother the runt of the family and a disgrace. He said that she, too, was autistic because she was "stupid like him".

Even when the US singer went to work on a ship, thinking she would be safe from him, he found out where she was and threatened to confront her backstage or show up at its various ports of call.

Ms Leandra Ramm, 29, was terrorised by Singaporean Colin Mak, 38, for six years, during which he cyberstalked her and threatened to harm her and her loved ones.

Mak, who also harassed other women, was yesterday jailed three years on 14 counts of criminal intimidation.

Ten were against Ms Ramm, three against the boyfriend of a Hungarian music teacher, and another was against a Singaporean businesswoman.

He was also fined $5,000 for harassing a Ukrainian musician, trespassing and theft.

Speaking to The New Paper on Internet communication service Skype from San Francisco two weeks ago, Ms Ramm marvelled at how obsessed Mak was with her, given they had never actually met.

His obsession began after he watched a short feature on Ms Ramm on CNN.

She said that Mak sent her more than 5,000 e-mails, mostly death threats, between 2005 and 2011.

"It was so coincidental he saw that (CNN) clip. The moment he saw me, I was doomed," Ms Ramm said.

"He latched on like a bee latches on to a flower. I could tell he wouldn't stop the harassment. It didn't matter that he didn't meet me in person.

"It would have continued until he died or I died."

FIRST CONTACT

Mak first contacted her in 2005, claiming to be the director of the Singapore Music Festival and promising to be her patron, she said.

When his offers to pay for a summer opera programme and for her to perform in Singapore did not materialise, she decided to ignore him.

She remembered receiving his first nasty e-mail in December 2006 while she was in a taxi and saw that he had sent copies to all the opera companies she was working with.

"He was saying I had severely insulted an important government officer and the opera was dealing with a criminal.

He also said he would use nightsticks to make sure I was dead."

She said she was shocked, but such threats from him became all too familiar.

"It was incredibly scary, the feeling that it was going to be reality," she said.

The harassment got worse as he left threatening voice messages from December 2006 to July 2007. He also threatened her friends, who told her to take care of the situation.

Ms Ramm said her breaking point came when he sent an e-mail to her opera company threatening to jeopardise the performance if she was not fired.

"The role was important to me. I remember I was on my lunch break when I rang him and said, 'What do you want? You're ruining my life.'

"He said he wanted to talk to me. A light bulb went off in my head. I would just have to talk to him once in a while and he would leave my friends and family alone."

So, for about 2½ years, Ms Ramm tried to placate Mak by speaking to him on Google Chat, chat service AIM and through the phone.

"I had as minimal contact as I could. We talked about once every 10 days. If I didn't contact him for too long, he would go back to stalking mode."

She also agreed to his request for pictures of her, but said: "I never sent him anything sexual, just pictures from my shows. He often tried to make the conversation sexual, but I'd just change the subject."

HE WENT BERSERK WHEN REJECTED

In 2010, Ms Ramm decided she could not maintain the charade. Mak kept wanting to increase their contact online and on the phone.

"He kept telling people I was his fiancee, he was going to move to New York and we were going to have three children," she said.

She sent Mak a final e-mail to tell him to leave her alone.

He replied to say he was sorry, then went "ballistic" two weeks later. "He created blogs in which he pretended to be a music critic and criticised my voice. He created Facebook, Twitter hate groups. He would mail physical letters to my parents' house: One would be a love letter, another a hate letter."

Mak e-mailed her sister, a dance and fitness instructor, and her sister's associates.

"He would send pictures of guns, saying he would show up at my sister's yoga studio at this time, on this day, and rape her. "I felt I couldn't escape. I was just trapped. He would always find a way to weasel in. I always had to do damage control."

Ms Ramm said she approached the Singapore Embassy, the United Nations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internet safety programme CyberAngels, but to no avail.

It was only when she engaged lawyer Monroe Mann and computer forensic expert A. J. Fardella that she started to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The Singapore police arrested Mak in July 2011.

"I've forgiven him, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to move on," Ms Ramm said.

"I've become a stronger person. If I could overcome that, I can overcome anything."

Vile, vicious threats reveal Mak's dark side

Wicked, repugnant, perverse, offensive, a persistent and obnoxious offender.

These were just some of the words District Judge Mathew Joseph used yesterday to describe Colin Mak and his reign of terror before jailing him for three years.

Mak faced 42 charges of intentional harassment, criminal intimidation, trespass and theft. He pleaded guilty to 17 of them, with 25 others taken into consideration, on Dec 4.

The district judge called it an abhorrent case that had vicious threats of violence with extremely vulgar rants against Ms Leandra Ramm.

He said: "She was not known to you. But you contacted her and deviously promised to further her music career.

"Your cyberstalking was tantamount to an aggravated and perverse form of mental assault."

The district judge berated Mak for having a malevolent streak in him by deviously targeting foreign musicians.

He said: "His actions were all deliberate and planned and involved sinister sophistication."

An Institute of Mental Health report said Mak did not suffer from any mental disorder and was not of unsound mind. However, the doctor indicated he had a probable anti-social personality disorder and probable narcissistic personality traits.

The district judge was not impressed with Mak's mitigation that he could not control his temper, calling it hardly exceptional.

He said Mak's vile and vicious threats against his victims revealed a dark side to him that was repugnant and offensive.

According to Ms Ramm's victim impact statement, parts of which was read out in court, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The constant state of stress, anxiety, fear and depression caused me, many times, to contemplate ending my own life. I could not see there ever being a solution until death did us part," she said.

The district judge called the case a timely reminder that harassment laws must keep up with changes in technology and the widespread use of Internet and social media.

He said it is often difficult for the victim to prove harassment in the virtual world as there may be little physical evidence.

Several countries, including the UK and the US, had passed recent new laws to deal with harassment and cyberstalking, he said.

"Singapore is one of the most wired societies in the world today. Technology advances and widespread use of the Internet have, unfortunately, provided easy opportunities for people like (Mak) to exploit and prey on others, in a way that is instantaneous and with minimal risk of detection."

He compiled database of 5,000 e-mails, letters

When US data forensic expert A.J. Fardella heard about Ms Leandra Ramm's six years of being stalked by Colin Mak, he felt it was more serious than cyberstalking.

Mr Fardella, who met the US singer in March 2011, told The New Paper in a phone interview: "It wasn't even cyberstalking, it was cyberterrorism.

"He threatened to rape and kill her. He even sent faxes and threats to her potential employers, to her family, to people who she was performing with and portrayed her as a prostitute, a criminal. The living hell she was put through - I knew I could and had to help."

That same month, he contacted the Singapore police investigators, who briefed him on the procedures to submit evidence.

He then compiled a massive database of evidence against Mak and sent them to the authorities here.

It contained more than 5,000 e-mail exchanges, voicemail, letters and faxes.

He also tapped on his connections in the US Secret Service, which he had worked with before.

Three months later in July 2011, Mak was arrested by the Singapore police.

OVERWHELMING

Mr Fardella said he found the case overwhelming.

"Leandra paid me, but with the number of hours I spent on this case, I doubt I even made minimum wage."

Although Ms Ramm managed to get justice, victims of foreign cyberstalkers are still very much helpless, Mr Fardella said.

"There is a severe lack of collaborative law enforcement treaties between countries regarding the exchange of electronic data.

"But Singapore's judicial system has blazed the trail with the successful indictment of Mak."

Mr Fardella and Ms Ramm recently started The Ramm Initiative, which advocates greater cybercrime enforcement across borders.

"We still meet up regularly - either she flies to California or I fly to New York," he said.

He helped her when no one else would

When Ms Leandra Ramm enlisted the help of entertainment and criminal lawyer Monroe Mann in early 2011, no country or organisation wanted to take on the responsibility of dealing with Colin Mak.

The singer approached Mr Mann after a talk he gave on networking and he agreed to help her.

"I knew there were thousands of people out there suffering from (harassment by cyberstalkers) but nobody knew of them. Fortunately, Leandra showed up that day," Mr Mann told TNP two weeks ago.

Mr Mann said they first tried to deal with the hate posts put up by Mak on various social media platforms.

"We asked Google (which owns blogging portal Blogspot) and YouTube to take down Colin's offending posts about Leandra, but none of them wanted to help us at first."

It took several months of persuasion before they agreed.

Mr Mann said he was also initially told by US and Singapore police that they could not do anything because Mak and Ms Ramm were not in their jurisdictions, respectively.

"We were getting told 'no' back and forth," he said.

"There is no international law that governs such cases, even though cyberstalking is a serious problem. But it shouldn't matter which city the perpetrator is in because this causes serious harm to people's lives."

In a last-ditch effort to save Ms Ramm from her tormentor, he compiled a five-page brief of all Singapore laws that Mak had broken and sent it to the Singapore police in March 2011, almost three months after he picked up her case.

He said: "We included laws such as criminal intimidation and harassment, and it was clear that Mak had broken them. I knew this was make or break. It was the last roll of the dice."

His efforts paid off when police e-mailed him in July 2011 to say they had arrested Mak and were investigating the case.

The Ukrainian woman

Colin Mak got to know an Ukrainian musician, Ms Veronika Sakhno, 28, when he saw her perform in Singapore.

He told her he liked her and wanted to date her.

But Ms Sakhno, who is a music instructor and freelance performer here, politely rejected him.

The persistent Mak then started to harass her at performances.

Court documents show that he also managed to get hold of her e-mail address and pestered her to go on dates with him.

On June 26 this year, at about 9pm, Ms Sakhno, who plays the viola and violin, was at a Toast Box outlet at the Esplanade when Mak approached her and shouted at her, calling her a "b****".

Two days later, she made a police report.

Mak was charged with intentional harassment under the Miscellaneous Offences Act

The Hungarian woman

Colin Mak also cyberstalked another music teacher, Ms Krasznai Tuende Ilona, 30, working in Singapore.

The court heard that he had watched Ms Ilona, a Hungarian national who worked here from February 2011 to October last year, perform at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Hotel early last year and was fixated with her.

He would show up at her performances at the hotel and started sending her e-mails this year after she left Singapore.

When Mak found out about her boyfriend, Mr Siegfried Geyer, a German photographer, he sent him threatening e-mails between May and June.

In one, Mak warned Mr Geyer to "stay away from (Ms Ilona) or we will beat your son to death". Mak then warned him that if he spoke to Ms Ilona again, "I will beat you and your children to death".

In a third e-mail, Mak professed that he loved Ms Ilona "a lot" and told her boyfriend that if he tries to touch her, "you will be dead sooner than you think".

In August, Ms Ilona made an online report from Germany to the Singapore police about Mak's threats to her boyfriend.

The S'porean woman

A Singaporean businesswoman, Ms Liew Hwei Ken, 46, also ended up being harassed by Colin Mak in 2010.

He alleged that Ms Liew, who works in a boutique, had "snatched" his business by engaging another photographer instead of him to take pictures of a model.

Mak sent her an e-mail on Jan 1, 2010, saying: "warning - your execution is near - see the pictures", with three hyperlinks to images of executions.

For this, he was charged with criminal intimidation.

Mak also pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal trespass and a charge of theft in dwelling. Another charge of trespass will be taken into consideration for sentencing.

On April 23 this year, at about 1.20am, he climbed over a fence at St James Church Kindergarten on Harding Road and went to the pantry, where he took some biscuits from the fridge and ate them.

Mak had also entered the screening area in The Cathay's cinema without buying a ticket on May 27.


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