Student who posed as MAS offical to help scammers defraud woman gets jail

Wong Shiying
The Straits Times
April 18, 2024

A 19-year-old student who posed as a Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) official to help scammers defraud a woman here was sentenced to eight weeks in jail on April 18.

Chinese national Li Jiarui, a computer science student at the Singapore Institute of Management, pleaded guilty to two charges.

They comprise one count of intentionally aiding unknown people with carrying out a domestic money transfer service and another count of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat CIMB bank.

Another four similar charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

The court heard that in October 2022, Li received a call, supposedly from DBS Bank, informing him that his identity had been misused for a credit card application in China.

He then got a call from “Chinese police” who told him he was being investigated for money laundering. Li did not verify the authenticity of these claims.

As part of the purported investigations, he opened several bank accounts and gave the details to the “Chinese police”.

In June 2023, Li was roped in by the “Chinese police” to work as an “undercover agent” for a monthly salary of between $1,000 and $2,000.

For this role, he was given a fake MAS official identity card and was told he would be sent on “missions”.

He was on such a mission on July 16, 2023 to help a woman download a mobile application that would give scammers remote access to her phone, when he was arrested.

Between November 2022 and January 2023, Li provided a domestic money transfer service here by accepting money from unknown people and transferring the funds to a different person.

He received a total of $245,450 in his DBS bank account and transferred almost all of it to other bank accounts. Of the sum, $82,350 were traced to scam victims.

In October 2022, Li applied to open a CIMB bank account under the instructions of the “Chinese police”. He claimed in a form that he would be the sole operator of the account, even though he intended to relinquish it to the fraudsters.

The CIMB account was used to transfer tainted funds, of which $40,500 was traced to a scam victim.

Seeking a jail term of 11 to 15 weeks’ jail for Li, Deputy Public Prosecutor Matthew Choo said the accused had received substantial funds in his DBS bank account, some of which were tainted.

He noted that Li did not profit from his offences.

Defence lawyer Darryl Ho sought three to five weeks’ jail for his client, saying in mitigation that the “Chinese police” were the true masterminds and Li was coerced into committing the offences.

“(My client) was led to believe he would face criminal charges from the Chinese government if he did not cooperate with them,” he said.

During sentencing, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said Li’s relatively young age is a significant mitigating factor.

“I have no doubt that this contributed to his failure to make due diligence checks to the supposed scam calls from DBS and the Chinese police,” Judge Lim said.

Mr Ho requested that his client start serving his sentence after his graduation in September 2024, to which the judge agreed.

The Straits Times

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