US$443,000 cash seized in Singapore’s largest impersonation scam breakthrough
Two arrested suspects had pretended to be Chinese officials in the phone scam
By Wong Pei Ting and Justin Ong Guang-xi
The police have seized S$590,000 (US$442,777) in cash after they arrested two men who dishonestly received the money by impersonating Chinese officials in phone scams. This is the highest amount seized by the Singapore police in what is a breakthrough for such cases.
The two unemployed Malaysian men, who are aged 18 and 33, will be charged in court.
TODAY understands the 18-year-old is a Singapore permanent resident who is waiting to further his studies here. The duo will be remanded for further investigations.
Another 18-year-old Malaysian suspect connected to the case was charged in court earlier on Saturday, the same day a 51-year-old Singaporean victim lodged a police report after she transferred S$100,000 (US$75,047) to a bank account.
The unemployed man, Chow Wai Chung, who is from Perak, arrived in Singapore on May 17 and holds a social visit pass. Chow faces a holding charge of dishonestly by receiving stolen property.
The arrests came following investigations into two police reports made by the 51-year-old victim, who is unemployed, and another 55-year-old Singaporean housewife, who lodged a report on June 2 after handing over S$310,000 (US$232,645) to an unknown man over two days.
Both victims handed over their money after they were allegedly duped into thinking they were involved in a transnational money laundering crime. They were contacted over the phone by unknown men who claimed to be the police.
The women were then instructed to withdraw all their savings for investigations.
The seized items from the two men were shown during the press conference, and they included stacks of money in S$50 (US$38) and S$100 (US$75) denominations, a banknote counter, a hard disk consisting of CCTV footage belonging to the accused, and two mobile phones.
Police investigations are still ongoing to establish the identities of other victims, as well as perpetrators in the syndicate.
Mr David Chew, director of the police’s Commercial Affairs Department, said scams are a “serious crime concern” as the number of victims have more than doubled from January to April this year, compared to the same period in 2017.
The losses suffered by the victims per case “can be sizeable”, as shown from the recent two cases, which saw total losses of S$410,000 (US$307,693), he noted. “These scams involve well organised overseas syndicates who use automated phone calls and call-spoofing technology, as well as social media messaging platforms… to target their victims,” said Mr Chew.
Noting that such scams are “very preventable”, Mr Chew added: “The police reminded members of the public that if the caller claims to be a foreign government official demanding money, he advised people to ignore their demands as this is in all likelihood a scam.
“While the police are determined to disrupt or dismantle these syndicates and their network of money mules, it is also important that members of the public protect themselves and their loved ones from becoming a victim of these scams.”
The duo are not the first to be arrested here in connection to impersonation scams of Chinese officials. In March, two Taiwanese men aged 24 and 25, Wang Wei Ciang and Wang Wei-Ming, were handed jail sentences of three years and three and a half years respectively for their roles as money mules.
They collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the victims and delivered the money to the syndicate. They each admitted to one count of dishonestly receiving and handing over the cash.