A bankrupt was recently jailed for seven years for conning two people out of nearly $2.4 million in an inheritance scam, with the sum believed to be the largest in such scams here.
Explaining his decision to jail Don Brendan Robert for seven years, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said there is a pressing need to deter such criminal behaviour, given a rise in such scams in recent years.
"In recent years, we are seeing more and more cases of such advance fee fraud in its many different forms being reported in the media, ranging from the lottery or lucky draw scams to the various bogus Ponzi schemes," he said in written grounds released last week.
The judge also noted that Robert had dropped the names of government bodies like the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) to perpetuate his scam.
Robert, 48, who was unemployed, had pleaded guilty to 25 out of 450 charges of cheating. The remaining counts were taken into account during sentencing.
The judge said it was appropriate to order that Robert serve seven of the one-year jail terms consecutively for the 25 charges.
"In this case, although there are only two victims, the accused had perpetrated the fraud on 450 occasions," said the judge.
"Hence more consecutive sentences are warranted in order to reflect more accurately the egregious harm caused by the accused to the two victims," he added.
Robert had cheated two men, including a friend of nine years, out of $2.36 million and used the money to pay off his debts to loan sharks and fund a lavish lifestyle.
Among other things, he rented a BMW 320 car for $300 a day and a room in Wak Hassan Drive from a friend for $1,200 a month.
The scam began in August 2011, when Robert lied to his friend, Mr Alan Lye Cher Kang, 44. He said that he was the beneficiary of an inheritance from his late father.
Both had met in 2002 over a gold brokering business. Mr Lye is a contractor in the business of constructing, fabricating and installing aluminium and glass works.
However, Robert told Mr Lye the inheritance money had been seized by the Government and was frozen by the police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). He lied that various processing fees and administrative charges had to be paid to release the supposedly frozen funds.
For the next three years, Robert spun more tales for his friend, including stories about purported dealings with banks such as DBS, United Overseas Bank, OCBC and Citibank; government agencies such as CAD and Iras; and other entities such as the Commissioner of Oaths and insurance companies.
Robert sought help for paying various processing fees, promising Mr Lye a portion of his inheritance when it was released.
When Mr Lye ran out of funds, having transferred about $175,000 to Robert until May 2012, Mr Lye turned to his friend, retiree Bay Lim Piang, 65.
Between June 2012 and August 2014, Mr Lye transferred $2,182,926 - all from Mr Bay - to Robert.
Mr Bay was offered the prospect of managing Robert's inheritance properties.
In seeking a stiff sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien said Robert had conjured up a systematic inheritance scam, which was believed to involve the largest sum in an inheritance scam in Singapore.
As the judge summed up: " We are dealing with a persistent and habitual offender in this case, who had no qualms about cheating his old friend of almost 10 years over a period of three years from August 2011."