7 years’ jail for man who ran S$3.2 million used-car scam

7 years’ jail for man who ran S$3.2 million used-car scam
TODAY file photo
Published: 1:55 PM, June 15, 2016
Updated: 10:29 PM, June 15, 2016

SINGAPORE — Hoping to grow his secondhand car business and increase cash flow, a serial cheat came up with a systematic and elaborate scam targeting sellers, buyers and finance companies, fleecing them of nearly S$3.2 million over two years.

Poh Chee Tiong, 61, faced 168 charges, mainly for cheating and forgery. On Wednesday (June 15), he was jailed seven years for his offences. His wife and son have also been fined for their involvement in the scam. 

In March 2013, Poh, an undischarged bankrupt, asked his wife to incorporate a firm, Cars Today, in which she was director and shareholder, but he was in charge of its finances and daily operations behind the scenes.

When sellers traded in their cars to the firm, they were promised that the firm would take care of the outstanding loans on the cars, but it would do no such thing on occasions, leaving sellers still saddled with the responsibility of paying off the loan for their sold cars. 

At times, Cars Today would buy a secondhand car and sell it to a new buyer, but it would fool finance companies into believing that a buyer had not been found, and wrangle its way into securing a loan for the car’s outstanding payment. 

As part of the loan conditions, the car’s registered ownership would be transferred to the finance company, instead of the new buyer who had received the car.

The buyers were told that the registered ownership of their newly bought car would be transferred to them upon purchase. After receiving the buyer’s payment, Cars Today would use the money for other expenses and to repay other car loans, instead of processing the ownership transfer.

In total, 71 buyers, 14 sellers and four finance companies were hoodwinked by the firm. 

Buyers ended up having their newly bought cars repossessed by registered owners, while sellers had to pay road tax and insurance premiums on their sold cars because ownership had not been transferred.

In one case, Mr Tan Yew Kong, 54, bought a secondhand BMW 118i for about S$146,000 in December 2013. Days after the sale, Poh applied for a S$122,000 loan from Kenso Leasing, and transferred the ownership to the finance company. 

Mr Tan was already in possession of the car by then, and had to pay Kenso more than S$73,000 to transfer the ownership to his name. In total, he ended up forking out about S$219,000 for his secondhand BMW.

Between December 2013 and December 2014, Poh roped in his son to forge sales and purchase agreements made between Cars Today and sellers. His son would amend the purchase prices on photocopies of the agreements and mark them up, so that the firm may receive higher loans from finance companies.

The prosecution said that Poh’s actions had caused monetary harm and inconvenience to his victims. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said that Poh also knew that he was prohibited by law to manage a company as an undischarged bankrupt, yet he circumvented it by making use of his wife to incorporate Cars Today.

In her sentencing remarks, District Judge Salina Ishak said that Poh had a high level of culpability, and had crafted a systematic and elaborate plan to cheat customers over a substantial period of time. His sentence will be backdated to January this year.