SINGAPORE, Sept 5 — A part-time property agent acted as a money mule for her supposed boyfriend, who got two overseas victims to transfer a total of S$128,650 (RM390,237) into her bank accounts.
In 2015, Singaporean Tan Yock Eng was issued with a letter of advice from the police cautioning her against money laundering activities.
However, Tan let the man use her bank accounts again. She carried almost S$50,000 in cash over the Causeway to Malaysia, changed the money to Malaysian ringgit and deposited it into another account.
Yester, Tan, 58, was jailed one year and two months for her offences from 2015 to 2017.
The victims, who fell for email impersonation scams, suffered about S$93,000 in losses. About S$35,000 was recovered.
Tan pleaded guilty to four charges under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, with another similar charge considered for sentencing.
She had met a man called Dieter Drenke in New York around 2011 and she regarded him as her boyfriend, the court heard.
Drenke told her he was a Swiss civil engineer who was trying to get a contract in Malaysia.
She claimed that Drenke told her he would settle down in Dubai, and that he asked for money while in Malaysia in 2014.
She allegedly transferred RM40,000 (about S$13,300) to him from her personal savings and cash borrowed from family members. He apparently promised to return her the money after returning from Dubai.
Drenke also visited Tan in 2014 for about a week, saying he wanted her Maybank account details to repay her.
However, he then got her to transfer into another bank account a sum of S$7,000 that she had received. He had told her the money was from his Malaysian friend and he wanted to avoid high bank fees.
Called up twice for investigations
In November 2014, the police called Tan up for investigations. The S$7,000 had come from a victim who was cheated by his online girlfriend into transferring the money to Tan’s account.
Despite being under investigation, Tan opened another account and gave the details to Drenke.
A few months later, Tan received a letter of advice.
It stated that the police had decided not to take further action against her “after careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case and in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”
If she received more money in her bank accounts, she was to contact the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) under the Singapore Police Force.
However, she stayed in contact with Drenke and continued helping him.
In May 2015, an Indonesian contact lens distribution firm received fraudulent payment instructions through email. The company paid about US$35,000 (RM145,301) into Tan’s account.
Drenke then told her to send the money to his friend in Malaysia for business purposes.
She withdrew the cash, kept S$392 for herself as repayment from Drenke for her loan to him, and went to Malaysia via Woodlands Checkpoint.
She deposited the cash in ringgit through an automated teller machine near Taman Pelangi in Johor Baru. She did not know whose bank account it was the deposit went.
In July 2015, the CAD called her up for investigations once more over this.
Handed over money at bus stop
In December 2016, she again complied with Drenke’s request to open another bank account so that he could continue repaying her.
Four months later, an Australian company transferred about A$78,500 (RM237,325) into that account. The company had also been duped through email.
Drenke then called Tan through the Viber mobile application, telling her to withdraw the sum and hand it over to his associates at a Bedok Central bus stop the next evening.
However, she did not feel good about withdrawing the whole sum and feared the bank would question her about it.
She withdrew S$46,000 and handed it over to two men on a motorcycle at the bus stop. They then handed her a mobile phone and she recognised Drenke’s voice over the line.
CAD later seized the remaining S$35,000 from her bank account.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Stacey Fernandez and Ong Xin Jie sought the sentence imposed. “There is a need to deter offenders from using Singapore for money laundering as it affects Singapore’s reputation as an international financial centre,” they said.
For acquiring property that represented another person’s benefits from criminal proceeds, Tan could have been jailed for up to 10 years or fined up to S$500,000, or both. — TODAY