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The Straits Times
Jan 30, 2023
She befriended a “man” purportedly named Leon Ho Kai Jun online, developed feelings for “him” and sent over naked pictures and videos of herself.
But “Leon” turned out to be a woman, who used the pictures and videos to try to extort money from the victim.
Janelle Phang Minxuan, who caused the victim to lose more than $4,000, was sentenced to four months’ jail on Monday after the 23-year-old pleaded guilty to one charge each of cheating and criminal intimidation.
There is a gag order to protect the identity of the victim, who is now 24 years old.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Shen Wanqin said Phang had befriended the victim on the dating app Heymandi some time before Sept 26, 2020, and falsely represented herself to be a man born in 2000.
She used a man’s photograph for her profile on WhatsApp and Instagram.
Said the prosecutor: “She deceived the victim from the get-go because she planned to ‘scam her (the victim)’, ‘play with her feeling(s)’ and cause her to believe that ‘Leon’ had fallen in love with her, thereby inducing her to give ‘Leon’ money and gifts.”
From Sept 26, 2020, to May 17, 2021, the pair spoke to each other daily.
Phang first started flirting with the victim over WhatsApp and told her as Leon that “he” would care for her if “Leon” was the only man in her life.
She also used a voice-changing app to process and convert her voice messages to a male voice before sending them to the victim.
On Oct 4, 2020, the victim, thinking Phang was Leon, confessed her feelings. Phang reciprocated, to continue to lead her on. On Nov 8, 2020, at the request of “Leon”, the victim agreed to be his girlfriend.
Though Phang had initially promised the victim to spend time with her in-person, she never fulfilled any of those promises and would give various excuses not to meet her.
DPP Shen said that Phang, as “Leon”, groomed the victim to be subservient to her by telling her that she should be loyal and obedient.
Phang then deceived the victim into buying items such as food and game credits for her.
She also made the victim resign from her job without notice, which resulted in her having to pay her employer $1,566.
Phang caused the victim to incur a total monetary loss of at least $4,705.64.
The victim initially paid for the purchases with her own money, but later had to get money from her sister and father.
Some time before Nov 19, 2020, Phang conceived the idea of procuring nude photographs and videos from the victim, for the purpose of extorting money from her.
She asked the victim to prove her love by sending her nude material over WhatsApp. The victim expressed her discomfort as she had never met “Leon” in person.
On Feb 12, 2021, after repeated requests, the victim sent two photos of her bra and panties to her and sent two nude videos over Instagram the next day after more pressure.
After receiving more material, Phang attempted to extort $1,000 from the victim on May 17, 2021, by threatening to post her nude material online and distribute them.
Worried, the victim blocked “Leon” on social media.
At about 2am on May 18, 2021, the victim lodged a police report stating that a person known to her only as “Leon” had threatened to distribute her nude photos and claimed to have already done so to a friend.
The police managed to establish Phang’s identity, and conducted an operation to track and detain her. She was arrested at her home on the same day, at about 5.30pm.
For cheating, Phang could have been jailed for three years with a fine.
She could have been jailed for up to two years with a fine for criminal intimidation.