SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The owner of a consulting firm pretended to hold various positions, including that of a lawyer running a law firm, to deceive 10 people, causing losses totaling 84 598 Singapore dollars.
Thong Meng Fie, who once owned Growportunity Consulting, had claimed the company was a law firm.
He even hired staff to work for him and they didn’t know he wasn’t qualified to practice law.
In fact, the scammer had been sent to prison several times between 2000 and 2017 for offenses such as cheating.
Thong, 46, pleaded guilty on Friday to offenses including eight counts of cheating.
He committed some of the latest offenses while under a surrender order shortly after his last release from prison in April 2019.
As part of the order, he was supposed to stay out of trouble from April 27, 2019 to August 25, 2020.
Instead, Thong returned to a life of crime just months after his release.
The court heard he posted an advertisement online stating that Growportunity Consulting was a law firm.
He also hired four unsuspecting staff members to do online marketing and administrative work for the company.
In early August 2019, a 51-year-old woman who was looking for a lawyer to represent her son in a criminal case came across the advert and went to Thong’s office in North Bridge Road.
Thong then lied to her that he was a lawyer and discussed her son’s case with her.
Deputy Attorney General Tay Jingxi said, “After the discussion, the defendant told (the woman) that he would take over his son’s case.
“To perpetuate his lie, the defendant issued a ‘warrant to act’, along with other documents indicating that he would ‘represent’ his son in the case…”.
Thong then tricked the mother into paying her a total of $45,500 nine times between August 14 and November 27, 2019.
He used the money to cover expenses such as the rental of his office and the salaries of his employees as well as their contributions to the Central Provident Fund.
Court documents did not reveal what happened next, but the woman filed a police report on December 13, 2019, saying Thong cheated on her.
At the beginning of 2020, he met a 57-year-old physiotherapist and they stayed in touch.
On October 24, 2020, he found out that she wanted to renovate her salon in Serangoon.
He then told the woman that he could help her with fengshui-related matters.
Thong contacted the facial therapist on November 1, 2020 and told him it was supposedly a special day for prayers.
The DPP said: “The defendant insisted that (the woman) let him change the fengshui of his living room.
“Believing that the defendant was capable and intended to do so, and feeling pressured by the defendant’s repeated requests, (she) agreed and gave the defendant $500 in cash the same day .”
The woman originally planned to use the money to buy supplies to run her salon, the court heard.
On December 20, 2020, she told officers that Thong cheated on her.
He made no restitution to the mother and the facial therapist.
Besides the two women, he cheated on eight other people. To date, he has awarded a total of $1,600 to two of them. He will be sentenced on November 7.
For each count of cheating, an offender can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined.