A marketing professional who was allegedly duped with forged bank transfer records and bounced cheques from the director of a car rental company decided to take the law into his own hands – by swindling the purported fraudster.
Adrian Matthew Lee Hwai San, 41, public relations firm Cohn & Wolfe’s former group managing director and head of corporate and public affairs for the Asia Pacific, was sentenced to four months’ jail on two cheating charges on 5 October. Another count of cheating was considered in sentencing.
The total amount involved in all the charges is $65,000.
Lee, a Singaporean permanent resident from New Zealand, is out on bail pending an appeal against his sentence. He has since left Cohn & Wolfe.
The victim, Ang Wee Hong, is currently facing multiple charges of cheating, including one involving Lee. Ang allegedly forged Lee’s signature on an insurance discharge voucher for $15,000 as an insurance payout for an accident involving Lee’s car which had been rented to Ang. It is unclear when these offences took place.
In her grounds of decision on the case last Tuesday (16 October), District Judge Salina Ishak said, “The fact that Ang himself is facing a charge involving the forgery of (Lee’s) signature on an insurance discharge voucher is not a good reason for the imposition of a high fine (on Lee) based on the facts and circumstances of the present case.”
The judge added that, “the Court simply cannot allow or condone offenders taking the law into their own hands. There can be no excuse for (Lee) to take matters into his own hands by resorting to cheating someone so as to recover a debt.”
The court heard that Lee got to know Ang in 2003, when the former was going overseas and looking for someone to rent his car. Ang, the sole director of WOW Automobiles, responded to Lee’s online ad.
Later, Lee told Ang he could help him to get WOW acquired by a Malaysian public-listed company, Sapura Industrial Berhad. Lee said Ang had to make certain payments for this to happen.
In order to lend credence to his claims, Lee registered an internet domain, Sapura-acquisition.com and used it correspond with Ang. Lee posed as “Adeline Patricia Hales” to convince Ang there was genuine interest from Sapura in acquiring his company.
On 15 August 2014, Lee met Ang at WOW’s office at Automobile Mega Mart in Ubi. Ang passed $25,000 in cash to Lee, thinking that it was for part of the acquisition fee to be paid to Sapura. Lee then gave Ang a letter of intent purportedly issued by Sapura.
On 21 August 2014, Ang transferred another $25,000 to Lee for the same purpose. Lee then sent a sale and purchase agreement to Ang using an email account purporting to belong to “Adeline Patricia Hales”. The document purportedly set out the terms of Sapura’s acquisition of WOW.
Lee has made full restitution to Ang.
In his mitigation plea, Lee’s lawyer Gino Hardial Singh asked for a high fine or three months’ jail.
Ang was hardly an innocent or vulnerable victim as he was a serial fraudster facing multiple cheating charges, the lawyer said.
Ang had defaulted on $25,000 in rent for using Lee’s car, Singh said, and duped Lee into believing that he had coughed up the sum with forged bank transfer records and bounced cheques. Ang also lured Lee into investing $20,000 in a casino and pawn-broking scam, and forged Lee’s signature on the insurance claim, swindling him of $15,000, the lawyer added.
Since no vulnerable victim was involved, the lawyer asked for a more lenient sentence.
In her grounds, the judge said a jail term was warranted as, among other things, the total amount involved in Lee’s cheating charges was substantial, his acts were premeditated and there was a high degree of planning, with the deception taking place over a period of time.
Lee was sentenced to four months’ jail on each cheating charge with both terms to run concurrently.