Former real estate agent pocketed $20k of elderly woman's money after helping her sell condo unit

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
February 14, 2024

A former real estate agent, who pocketed $20,000 of an elderly woman’s money after helping her sell a condominium unit, was sentenced to eight weeks’ jail on Feb 14.

Louiis Ignatius Tan Puay Meng, 58, who was working for Savills Residential at the time of the offence, had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of misappropriating the money.

He has made no restitution to the victim.

Tan’s name could not be found in the public register of the Council for Estate Agencies in an online search on Feb 14.

He had helped the 80-year-old woman sell the condominium unit in Changi in 2019, and she received more than $462,000 from the sale.

In November that year, Tan and the woman set up a joint bank account to deposit the proceeds.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Rimplejit Kaur and Mark Chia stated in court documents that Tan was made a joint owner of the bank account to help keep track of the monies.

The DPPs added: “The accused assured the victim that he would take care of her for the rest of her life, and that he would not use any of the monies in the joint bank account, which were for the victim’s sole use, for his personal expenditures.”

Tan also assured the victim that it was safe to set up the joint bank account and that any withdrawals would be done only through cheques signed by both of them.

The woman then agreed to having a DBS joint bank account.

Tan’s offence came to light when the woman asked for a bank statement for January 2020, and saw that some of the money was missing.

On Feb 29, 2020, she visited a DBS branch to ask for the bank statements for November and December 2019, as well as for February 2020.

She obtained the first two statements, but the one for February 2020 was not available then.

Seeing the two statements for the first time, the victim realised that somebody had made unauthorised withdrawals from the bank account.

The DPPs said that a total of $20,000 was withdrawn over four occasions in December 2019.

The woman closed the account and made a police report against Tan on March 3, 2020.

Tan admitted to investigators that he had withdrawn the $20,000 through a banking app without the woman’s authorisation or consent. He used the ill-gotten gains to settle his personal expenses.

On Feb 14, DPP Chia asked District Judge James Elisha Lee to sentence Tan to up to 12 weeks’ jail, stressing that he had betrayed the victim’s trust.

Defence lawyer K. Jayakumar Naidu, who pleaded for his client to be given four weeks’ jail, said that Tan had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

But the judge noted that in Tan’s medical report, there was no information about his mental condition at the time of the offence.

The judge added that prison psychiatric services are available for inmates.

Tan is out on $40,000 bail. He is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on March 4 to begin serving his sentence.

The Straits Times

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