Second teen pleads guilty to part involvement in OCBC phishing scam totalling S$12.8 million in losses
SINGAPORE — A 19-year-old man on Wednesday (Jan 4) admitted to his involvement in a spate of high-profile phishing scams affecting OCBC bank.
- Brayden Cheng Ming Yan, 19, admitted on Wednesday (Jan 4) to his involvement in a series of scams involving OCBC bank
- The scams resulted in almost 800 OCBC customers losing S$12.8 million, court documents stated
- The district judge called for a report to assess Cheng's suitability for reformative training
- Cheng committed the crimes while on probation
- He will return to court on Feb 2 for sentencing
SINGAPORE — A 19-year-old man on Wednesday (Jan 4) admitted to his involvement in a spate of high-profile phishing scams affecting OCBC bank between December 2021 and January last year.
Brayden Cheng Ming Yan pleaded guilty to one count of helping another to retain the benefits of criminal conduct and one count of being a member of an organised criminal group. Two other charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
He helped to change the login credentials of the customers’ bank accounts and transferred small amounts of money between the accounts to test if they were working.
The OCBC phishing scams affected almost 800 customers who lost S$12.8 million, according to court documents. The bank said previously that S$13.7 million was lost in the scam.
Cheng and the group of teens he worked with provided at least 16 bank accounts to the syndicates in a Telegram chat group.
The amount of money which came from these accounts totalled almost S$600,000.
Cheng is the second of seven Singaporean youths, aged 19 to 22, to plead guilty to money laundering offences.
The first individual to be dealt with, Leong Jun Xian, was given reformative training on July 5, 2022. He provided bank accounts to the scammers and instructed runners to withdraw the proceeds from automated teller machines around the island.
District Judge May Mesenas called for a report to assess Cheng’s suitability for reformative training, which is a regimented rehabilitation programme for offenders under 21 who commit relatively serious crimes.
He will return to court on Feb 2 for sentencing.
Prosecutors told the court that the modus operandi was as follows:
- Scammers impersonated OCBC bank and sent text messages with website links to victims informing them of fake banking-related issues
- Victims who clicked on the links were taken to a fake OCBC login page
- They entered their electronic banking login credentials and one-time passwords on the page and were then taken to a final landing page
- The scammers then gained control of their bank accounts, set up digital banking tokens and changed the victims’ login credentials and contact information linked to the accounts without their authorisation
- The scammers then transferred funds out of the accounts to other local and overseas accounts
According to court documents, Cheng and the six other individuals worked together as a group to provide money-laundering services to various people believed to be linked to overseas syndicates.
Cheng and his accomplices would source for and provide control of bank accounts to them.
Some of these bank accounts were subsequently used to receive and dissipate funds from the OCBC scam victims, while other bank accounts were used to receive and dissipate funds from victims of other scams.
The group was instructed by the syndicates to use three chat groups on messaging application Telegram to relay the account credentials of the bank accounts they had obtained. They were also instructed to withdraw cash from ATMs.
They believed that the unknown persons they were in contact with — only identified as William or Huang Wei Hong, Huang Da Ge and Terry — were based overseas.
CLOSE TO S$600,000 SIPHONED FROM 16 BANK ACCOUNTS
Cheng was a member of one of these chat groups and would help to change the login credentials of the bank accounts provided by four of the other accomplices.
He would also transfer small amounts of money between bank accounts to test if they were working, the court heard.
For his work, he was paid about S$1,400 in December 2021 and January 2022.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Jason Chua and Ronnie Ang said that Cheng had been placed on probation in August last year for rioting and being a member of an unlawful assembly.
“Just a few months after he was sentenced to probation, he committed the offences in the present case,” DPP Chua said.
In light of him reoffending on probation, DPP Chua asked for a report to assess his suitability for reformative training instead.
When District Judge Mesenas asked if Cheng had anything to say, he responded: “No, I’ve got nothing to say.”
She then asked him if he had learnt anything from his time serving probation.
“Placing you on probation was a waste of our time wasn’t it? Did you learn anything from probation? When I placed you on probation it didn't mean a thing to you as there wasn't a desire to change, wasn't it?” she asked.
Cheng replied that he did have a desire to change but resorted to his crimes as he was not “financially stable” and was unable to secure any jobs.
He also did not tell his parents about his plight as he did not want to place stress on his mother, who has an existing heart condition. She was present in court that day.
District Judge Mesenas asked: “Which do you think is more stressful to her? You not having a job and being honest with her or that she has to be here in court to see you pay for your actions?”
Cheng did not reply to these questions.
Apart from a reformative training report, District Judge Mesenas also called for a probation progress report.
Cheng will spend the next week in jail to be assessed on whether he is mentally and physically suited for reformative training.
“I hope you can do some serious reflection during that week. You need to do something about your life and your future,” she said.
Any person who is part of a locally linked organised criminal group can be jailed up to five years, fined up to S$100,000 or both.
Those convicted of entering or abetting the entering of an arrangement to facilitate the benefits of criminal conduct may be fined a maximum of S$500,000, jailed for up to 10 years, or both.