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Conman jailed for cheating property buyers of nearly S$1.8m

SINGAPORE — The man who pretended to be a lawyer to swindle nearly S$1.8 million from 21 victims had turned the dreams of property buyers into a nightmare, a district judge said.

SINGAPORE — The man who pretended to be a lawyer to swindle nearly S$1.8 million from 21 victims had turned the dreams of property buyers into a nightmare, a district judge said.

Sim Tee Peng, 39, was sentenced to seven years and five months’ jail for cheating, criminal misappropriation, and creating counterfeit certificates of stamp duty, among other charges.

The sentence includes three months’ jail for offences under the Stamp Duties Act, where he pocketed S$91,980 in stamp duties paid by the victims. Sim had earlier pleaded guilty to 26 charges, and another 41 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing today (Feb 12).

District Judge Low Wee Ping called Sim a “serial cheat”, given the large number of offences and varied charges.

“The public needs to be protected from this devious, fraudulent scheme,” he said, adding that Sim also used the monies he took from later victims to pay off earlier victims, “much like a Ponzi scheme”.

In carrying out his crimes, Sim, who used to work as a paralegal, made it seem like he was working with four law firms between June 2011 and September 2012, but was never formally hired by them. He pretended to issue personal cheques to make stamp duty payments and other conveyance fees on behalf of property buyers who were the four law firms’ clients.

Then he presented false invoices with the law firm’s letterhead, or copies of unissued personal cheques to his victims to make it look like he had made payment for them, and the victims made out cheques to him or his own wholesale trade company, WW Hub Private Limited, where the bank account was used for personal purposes.

Some of the money he pocketed were used to buy a BMW 5 Series car. Some were used to “repay” victims, like the time he stole a cheque valued at S$20,061 paid by a client to law firm Troy Yeo & Co, to pay for stamp duties of two other clients.

These “repayments” amounted to S$2.3 million in all, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien said they should not be considered mitigating factors, because they were not signs of genuine remorse.

Sim’s offences were exposed after the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore investigated cases of forged stamp certificates for one of the four law firms’ property transactions.

Sim had also conned a law firm into reimbursing him by using forged stamp certificates, saying he had already paid stamp duties on their clients’ behalf with his own money after the clients had paid the law firm.

For cheating, he could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined. For criminal misappropriation, he could have been jailed up to seven years, fined, or both.

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