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Jail for man who cheated face mask buyers on Carousell and then hid in Batam with pregnant girlfriend

SINGAPORE — A 23-year-old man was jailed for 14 weeks on Wednesday (Jan 19) for cheating several face-mask buyers on e-marketplace Carousell at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mohammad Zulhilmi Arif pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating and one of removing proceeds of his criminal conduct from jurisdiction.
Mohammad Zulhilmi Arif pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating and one of removing proceeds of his criminal conduct from jurisdiction.

SINGAPORE — A 23-year-old man was jailed for 14 weeks on Wednesday (Jan 19) for cheating several face-mask buyers on e-marketplace Carousell at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mohammad Zulhilmi Arif, a Singaporean, managed to cheat buyers of S$2,300 before going to Batam, Indonesia. He is said to have spent most of the money he received on his pregnant girlfriend’s needs.

He was arrested on Dec 3 last year when he returned to Singapore. His jail sentence was backdated to then.

Zulhilmi pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating and one of removing proceeds of his criminal conduct from jurisdiction. Four other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that he ran a Carousell account under the username “Xaviertan556”. On Feb 21, 2020, he began advertising surgical masks and N95 masks at S$15 for a box of 50 pieces.

These products were in demand in Singapore due to the fear surrounding Covid-19 and their relatively limited supply at the time, the court heard.

One victim, a 41-year-old man, came across Zulhilmi’s listing and later contacted him on WhatsApp. Zulhilmi said that there should be "no problem" getting the masks because he still had stocks. 

The victim decided to buy 300 boxes at S$12.50 a box, for a total of S$3,750.

He then paid Zulhilmi a 20 per cent deposit of S$750 through e-payment PayNow, before telling him to deliver the masks to the premises of chemical exporter company Vistachem Singapore in the West Coast Road area.

The victim also told Zulhilmi to look for a Vistachem staff member who would pay him the rest of the cash upon delivery.

On the day of the delivery, Zulhilmi did not show up.

Another victim, a 47-year-old woman, decided to buy 120 boxes of masks from him for S$1,800. Zulhilmi requested a 30 per cent deposit as “security against cancellation”.

She asked him to deliver the masks to her company and waited for him there but he ignored her messages and did not turn up.

Zulhilmi never had the masks and had withdrawn S$1,700 in cash near HarbourFront MRT Station before leaving Singapore for Batam on the day the victims transferred the money.

During investigations, he told the authorities that he had gone there to be with his girlfriend who was pregnant with his child. He was eventually arrested when he returned from Batam.

He has not made any restitution.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Benjamin Samynathan sought the sentence imposed, saying Zulhilmi wanted to capitalise on the public’s fears over the pandemic. The first Covid-19 case in Singapore was reported a month before Zulhilmi posted his listing on Carousell.

Those convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Related topics

court crime face masks Covid-19 Batam cheating Carousell

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