Woman steals ex-BF's IC, gets another man to impersonate him and registers their marriage

Shaffiq Alkhatib, Darryl Laiu​
The New Paper
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When her boyfriend wanted to break up, she ripped off her clothes and threatened to run naked in the streets if he didn't stay with her.

Then she threatened to throw her two-year-old son from his sixth-storey flat.

Finally, she grabbed a knife from the kitchen and cut herself, but he managed to stop her.

The man, whom we shall call Peter, told The New Paper in Mandarin yesterday that his live-in girlfriend's extreme reaction merely confirmed that she was not the woman for him.

He told her to pack her things and leave.

A month after the break-up, he received a phone message from his ex-lover, whom we shall call Karen.

Accompanying an image of a marriage certificate bearing their names was a brief message in Mandarin: "You are mine."

After getting over the shock, Peter made a police report.

Yesterday, Karen, a 32-year-old finance assistant, was jailed for four weeks after pleading guilty to one count each of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat and engaging in a conspiracy to make a false statement in a statutory declaration before a Registry of Marriages (ROM) officer.

Court papers said Karen had secretly got hold of Peter's identity card and got a man to impersonate him so they could register the marriage at the ROM. 

The court ordered that both parties not be named to protect the identity of Karen's son.

Peter, now a 31-year-old driver, told TNP that he met Karen around 2010 when they were both working in a retail store. The then customer service officer approached him and asked him out.

"She came across as normal then, and we went on very normal dates to the movies and the like," said Peter, who was working in sales at the time.

"She became pregnant and gave birth a year into our relationship, and moved in with me."

They lived in his flat in Serangoon for about two years before he decided to end the relationship.

After about a year together, Karen's behaviour grew more erratic, he said. She started throwing tantrums and shouting at him over petty things.

He said he had tolerated her behaviour as he loved her and "trusted her blindly".

But some things struck him as odd, such as Karen forbidding him to be present during her child's birth.

He also noticed that the father's name on the boy's birth certificate was not his.

"I asked her about this and she said it was different because it was in hanyu pinyin," said Peter.

Though he can read hanyu pinyin, he said he chose to believe her.

But he was shocked to find out later that Karen was a divorcee and was still seeing her ex-husband. According to court papers, she was still married when she gave birth to her son.

Peter said: "I also found out she was staying over at her ex-husband's home on some nights while telling me that she was visiting her aunt."

CONVINCED

Throughout the relationship, Peter had treated the child as his but he is now convinced otherwise.

He said: "She even said that I could take a DNA test to prove it but she changed her mind later."

Peter never thought he would be deceived to such an extent and decided to break up with Karen in 2012.

But she became hysterical and threatened to take drastic measures to hold on to him.

"She went crazy, stripping and then threatening me with the child," he said.

"She said she was losing her mind and was going to kill herself."

Peter has a new girlfriend but is unable to get married until he resolves the matter of his "marriage" with Karen. Court papers said Peter must obtain a Family Court order to void the marriage.

"I just want to live my own normal life. I never want to see her again and will never forgive her," he said.

'Nothing wrong with the system'

Cases of impersonation for the purpose of marriage are rare, said lawyers contacted by The New Paper yesterday.

Mr Louis Joseph of Regent Law said: "It's not common for these lapses to happen. I believe it's a one-off case."

When asked if the Registry of Marriages (ROM) should tighten its processes to prevent such incidents from recurring, TSMP Law Corporation director Anand Nalachandran said the verification of documents and statutory declaration process might be the appropriate stage to have further verification done as both parties must be present at the ROM.

"However, beyond the existing practices at the ROM, there may not be further steps that can be taken to verify the identity of the parties," he added.

Mr Shashi Nathan, a partner in WithersKhattarWong, said: "This is one individual trying to beat the system. There is nothing wrong with the system at the moment."

Mr Joseph said photos of identity cards could be updated more often to prevent such incidents - he has encountered clients who look different from their IC photos.

Prosecution: She knew he wouldn't marry her

Despite their break-up, she refused to let go of him.

So she hatched a devious scheme to get them married - without his knowledge.

She secretly got hold of his identity card and roped in another man to impersonate him so they could register her marriage to her ex-lover at the Registry Of Marriages (ROM).

They successfully carried out her plan on Oct 25, 2012, and she later received the certificate of marriage from the ROM.

The woman, now 32, was jailed for four weeks yesterday after pleading guilty to one count each of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat and engaging in a conspiracy to give a false statement in a statutory declaration before an ROM officer.

Her alleged accomplice, also 32, has yet to be dealt with in court. Their relationship was not revealed in court.

The woman and her ex-boyfriend cannot be named to protect her young son, so we shall call them Karen and Peter.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chew Xin Ying told the court that in 2010, Karen was still married but no longer lived with her husband.

Karen met Peter that year and they became lovers. She later gave birth to a boy and told Peter that the baby was his. But the birth certificate named her husband as the boy's father.

Court papers did not identify the boy's biological father.

The couple were divorced in 2011, the court heard.

In 2012, Peter broke up with Karen after suspecting that the child was not his.

DPP Chew said: "The accused was very unhappy as she wanted (Peter) to return to her and not marry anyone else.

"However, she knew that (Peter) did not and would not consent to marrying her."

On Oct 3, Karen filed a notice of marriage on the ROM website, stating her intention to marry Peter.

She and Peter's impersonator went to the ROM on Oct 25 and appeared before licensed commissioner of oaths Kevin Tan Kok Hee.

When Mr Tan asked them to complete the statutory declaration, the imposter forged Peter's signature.

Mr Tan then handed them a marriage certificate containing Karen's and Peter's names.

Karen and the imposter later met marriage solemniser Michelle Leong Ton at Din Tai Fung restaurant at 112 Katong shopping mall.

When Madam Leong asked for their ICs, the man handed over Peter's IC.

The couple then said their vows, exchanged rings and signed the marriage certificate. Two witnesses, Karen's friend and her mother, also signed the certificate.

ROM approved the registration after receiving a copy of the signed certificate from Madam Leong.

The next day, Karen sent Peter a photo of the certificate and told him they were married to each other. He made a police report 12 days later.

MISUSED

DPP Chew said: "ROM has confirmed that in the present case where (Peter's) identity was misused to register a marriage without his consent, a Family Court order has to be obtained to void the marriage."

She urged District Judge Salina Ishak to jail Karen for four to six weeks for the conspiracy to give a false statement in a statutory declaration to Mr Tan, and a month for the cheating offence.

She also stressed that Karen had abetted her alleged accomplice to give a false declaration to a government agency.

Karen's lawyer, Ms Diana Ngiam, asked for her client to be jailed for two to three weeks.

She said the Institute of Mental Health found Karen had an "acute stress reaction" and had attempted suicide when Peter ended the relationship.

Ms Ngiam said this had led to her "misguided actions".

The New Paper asked the Ministry of Social and Family Development what it is doing to prevent similar offences in future.

An ROM spokesman replied: "The ROM has tightened its identification process and will conduct additional checks on alternative photo-IDs where applicants' faces and photos in ICs differ."

Karen could have been jailed up to three years and fined on each charge.

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