Youth who cheated insurance agent and stole from grandfather gets second round of probation
- Darren Kwok Yew Feng, 21, had tricked an insurance agent into lending him S$3,600 for policies he did not buy
- He also stole at least S$31,000 from his grandfather
- He committed his offences while on probation for earlier crimes
- A court heard that Kwok suffered from depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
SINGAPORE — A 21-year-old youth who breached his probation conditions by cheating an insurance agent and stealing from a family member was on Tuesday (June 21) sentenced to another 21 months' probation.
Darren Kwok Yew Feng lied about paying for an insurance plan to get an insurance agent to lend him S$3,600 and stole at least S$31,000 from his grandfather.
On Tuesday, a court heard that Kwok is diagnosed with depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Probation is usually offered to young offenders between 16 and 21 years old, and the sentence does not result in a recorded criminal conviction. Kwok will be able to continue with his education or employment while serving his sentence.
His lawyer, Mr Kevin Liew from law firm Gloria James-Civetta & Co, had told the court that he also has a medical history with the Institute of Mental Health.
A private psychiatrist found that Kwok suffered from persistent depressive disorder and ADHD. The psychiatrist further stated in his report that Kwok was willing to change his behaviour and seek treatment.
Mr Liew told the court that Kwok had re-offended while “labouring under an immense amount of stress”, having been evicted from his previous home due to disagreements between himself and his landlord, and this worsened his mental health.
His grandfather has also written a note saying that he forgives the youth, and that Kwok has “made positive progress in reconciling their relationship, the defence counsel said.
District Judge Eddy Tham ordered Kwok to perform 80 hours of community service, remain indoors from 10pm to 6am during his probation period, and attend a progress accountability court review in half a year’s time.
He had pleaded guilty in January to one count of theft in dwelling and another of cheating. Another five counts of forgery will be taken into consideration during sentencing.
In 2019, he had been sentenced to two years’ probation for nine offences including theft, cheating and unauthorised access to computer material. Details of his earlier crimes were not stated in court documents.
For the present case, the court heard that in August 2019, Kwok stole five cheques from his grandfather’s bedroom drawer in their home along Hong San Walk in Chua Chu Kang.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sarah Thaker said that Kwok wanted the money to pay for his “personal expenses” and to repay a friend.
After stealing the cheques, he forged his grandfather’s signature and managed to cash three of them for sums of between S$9,000 and S$12,000 each that were put into his bank account, totalling S$31,000.
During this time, he also stole other cheques that were pre-signed by his grandfather and cashed them. Court documents did not state how much money was stolen through the pre-signed cheques.
The next month, his grandfather made a police report after discovering unauthorised withdrawals from his bank accounts.
He told the police that he suspected it was his grandson who stole the cheques from him.
In October 2020, Kwok met twice with an insurance agent from AXA Insurance. They initiated contact on job networking portal LinkedIn, with Kwok saying that he wanted to buy some insurance policies.
At the meetings, he signed policy documents and was told that he had to make a one-time payment of S$7,200 for the policies.
DPP Thaker said that Kwok told the agent, Ms Cristarika Hannie Wijaya, that he had the money to pay for the policies, but asked to pay in instalments because he needed money for his day-to-day expenses.
However, payment by instalments was not possible, so the plan was for him to pay the lump sum first. Then, the agent would lend him S$3,600 and Kwok would repay her S$300 every month.
Having only less than S$500 in his bank account at the time, Kwok later made two transfers from the account totalling S$7,200 via Singapore Post's SAM electronic payment system.
He knew that the transaction would not be successfully processed.
DPP Thaker explained: “(He) knew that SAM’s payment system would show a ‘payment details’ page indicating the successful transfers of monies to AXA Insurance, notwithstanding that the said transfers had not yet actually gone through.”
Kwok then sent screenshots of the transactions to Ms Wijaya.
The agent later found out that the payments did not go through and made a police report.
Kwok has since returned the full S$3,600 to Ms Wijaya.