SINGAPORE - A Lamborghini driving man cheated me of more than $100,000 in less than a month.
That is what a young woman claims and she has filed three police reports to get the money back.
But she admitted that it was his perceived wealth that made him attractive in the first place.
This cautionary tale of the dangers of material temptations first started when the woman, in her 20s, met the man online through the app SayHi.
She had been approached by other men on the app before, but decided to give him a chance after seeing his attractive profile.
According to the man's profile on SayHi, said Jane (not her real name), he was 1.8m tall, lived at Sentosa Cove and was drawing an annual income of around $400,000.
"I admit, I was drawn to his wealth initially," said Jane, a Malaysian working here.
"That was why I began to chat with him," she said, speaking in Mandarin.
After their first chat on Jan 26, they chatted daily before he finally suggested meeting on Feb 2 after dinner. For their first meeting, he picked her up from her home in a blue Mini Cooper.
"He was not very handsome, but he was a gentleman," said Jane. "He opened my car door for me."
Jane also noted that he was dressed smartly in business attire and was wearing an Armani Exchange watch. She said he took her to Sentosa Cove for a walk and pointed to one of the houses as his.
"It had three storeys and a sea view. But he never invited me in," she said.
He claimed that he was a director with several finance companies and was working on several projects for some top hotels.
After the first meeting, he asked her to be his girlfriend and she accepted.
"He seemed really genuine," said Jane. "Looking back, he was really good at acting. When we met up, he would talk about his work and pretend to take important calls from his colleagues."
On the dates that followed, he picked her up in different flashy cars, ranging from Mini Coopers to a BMW 7 series and a Lamborghini which he claimed to own.
He claimed he had a Korean mother and an Indo-Chinese businessman father.
He also claimed that he grew up in the US until he was seven, studied in Singapore until he was 16 and was in the UK until he was 20. He returned for national service, then studied at the National University of Singapore, before entering the workforce.
Within four days of their first meeting, he had told Jane that he had lost his wallet, resulting in the freezing of his bank accounts.
He asked her for $4,000 to buy a gift for his grandparents.
"If it had been any other request, I might not have said yes. But he sounded so filial," said Jane.
She claimed that over the course of a month, he borrowed $107,310 from her in various amounts, ranging from $500 to $15,000 in 30 separate transactions.
His reasons started with renovation fees for his second Sentosa Cove home, followed by compensation fees from an alleged fight with a contractor, then legal fees when the contractor took him to court, and finally, a company fine due to the court case.
Without that much cash on hand, Jane said she had to borrow 90 per cent from family and friends.
"I didn't tell them what it was for because we based it on trust," she said.
The financial supervisor, who declined to reveal how much she earns, is the youngest of six children. She began to be suspicious when, after borrowing all the money, the man said he was going to China for a business trip.
Recalled Jane: "Everything happened so quickly, I didn't have time to think. Only when he was overseas did I start to realise there was something wrong."
"I called him while overseas, but the dial tone was not different. I asked him about it, but he said that I did not trust him and was angry," she said.
She started asking him for her payment and he issued her a cheque for $4,000, which bounced.
She continued asking him about it and he eventually agreed to meet her to return all the money on April 2 at 2pm at Far East Plaza.
Jane arrived an hour early, but he was a no-show and she received a message saying that because she was late, he could not return the money.
She finally told her father about it and the family discussed what to do.
Jane and her older sister have been investigating his background, suspecting correctly that he had been declared bankrupt in 2011.
Disappointed in herself
They also bought business profiles of companies related to the man from Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), and looked up various numbers and addresses provided, but to no avail.
Said Jane: "I am disappointed in myself. And I feel helpless."
They have also filed three police reports. The police confirmed that the police reports were lodged and that the case had been classified under fraudulent debtor.
The police advised her to seek her own civil redress.
The New Paper conducted our own checks based on the NRIC number given by Jane and found out the man had registered for marriage in October 2012.
Jane confirmed that they had also found out that he had a son.
Calls to the numbers Jane provided went straight to voicemail or were not in use.
The Acra site showed a company listed in the name Jane provided as "struck off" while the other two had been "cancelled".
"I don't think I will get my money back," said Jane. "But I want to take some action and see him punished before he tries it on other girls."
AMOUNTS SHE LENT HIM
Jane lent money 30 times, totalling $107,310. These were some of them.
Feb 5, morning:
$4,000 in cash
$1,300 to his account for grandparents' gift
Feb 6, afternoon:
$1,500 in cash for his renovation fees
Feb 26, afternoon
$15,000 in cash for contractors' medical bills and the man's legal fees
Feb 28, afternoon:
$13,000 in cash for more legal fees
March 2, night:
$500 for his company's fine for his involvement in a lawsuit
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Jane can sue the man and reclaim the money, said Mr Robson Lee, a partner at law firm Shook Lin and Bok.
He said: "If she has written records or even WhatsApp messages as evidence to acknowledge he borrowed this amount from her, she can use it."
But considering his bankruptcy, Mr Lee, 46, was doubtful of her chances of getting back the money.
"She remains an unsecured creditor and there may be many others who also want their money back from him," he said.
Mrs Sheena Jebal, 39, principal counselling psychologist at NuLife Care and Counselling Services, said that there are many reasons for a young woman falling for men they think are rich.
"The woman could have high expectations when looking for a man, such that when they find one suited, they are blinded into ignoring any red flags," she said.
"It could also be because they have friends around them who are all getting married and they feel the pressure to find someone, being the last single ones left."
She said that, for some women, finding a rich man helps fund a materialistic lifestyle.
Said Ms Sheena: "There is an increasing trend of having branded goods and there is a feeling that a good lifestyle is about the brand."
This article was published on April 11 in The New Paper.
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