SINGAPORE: After losing money from cryptocurrency trading, an insurance agent with AXA began tricking his clients and acquaintances into giving him money, totalling more than S$193,000 (US$144,100).

Xie Huirong, a 27-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to two years and four months’ jail on Tuesday (Jan 30).

He pleaded guilty to six charges, mostly of cheating, with another 11 charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Xie was an insurance agent at AXA from August 2017 to November 2019.

He lost money in leveraged cryptocurrency trading. In order to regain his capital, he resorted to obtaining money from his clients under various false pretexts linked to their policies, the prosecution said.

HIS VICTIMS

Xie’s victims included his friend’s aunt – who was a single mother whom he knew needed extra income, a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University and a supermarket cashier.

He got to know the single mother through her nephew and became her insurance agent, selling her a savings and investment policy in 2018.

In 2019, to get money from her, Xie told the woman that she could enjoy better returns if she paid her monthly premiums for the next six months in advance as a lump sum.

He lied to her that if she transferred him the cash, he would make the payments for her and it would be faster so she could capitalise on the interest rate.

Believing him, the woman wrote a cheque for S$8,000 and passed it to Xie.

He approached her a few months later for another S$8,000. Although she was initially reluctant, she eventually gave him the money as she felt she could trust her nephew’s friend.

She realised she had been duped when AXA continued deducting money from her account to pay the premiums on her policies.

Xie also cheated his own aunt, telling her about purportedly attractive returns if she invested into shares offered by Temasek Holdings.

His aunt withdrew a total of S$55,000 in cash and gave it to him. There was no such share offering by Temasek Holdings and he repaid her S$7,500 only after police investigations began.

Another victim, an NTU research fellow drawing an annual salary of about S$100,000, bought two insurance polices from Xie in late 2018 or early 2019.

Xie approached her sometime in mid-2019 and similarly claimed she could enjoy better returns if she paid her yearly premiums for the next three years in advance.

The victim transferred a total of S$30,000 to Xie, who never transferred it to AXA.

The victim persistently asked Xie for receipts. In August 2019, Xie met the victim and admitted that he had lost the money in investments.

He asked her not to go to the police and said he would repay her the whole amount, preparing an IOU.

However, he repaid her only S$10,000.

Other than cheating his clients, Xie also cheated a couple of S$20,000 after promising to sell them 800 boxes of thermometers around March 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He additionally cheated a foreign student of S$4,000, pretending he could get a student pass for her and forging an approval letter from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

AXA caught wind of the crimes and interviewed him in late-2019. Xie was later investigated by the police.

He has made partial restitution of about S$77,000 to some of the victims.

The prosecution sought 33 to 43 months’ jail for Xie, noting that the total monetary loss caused by his offences was S$193,235, on top of “some intangible unquantifiable harm”.

He said this sentence would not be crushing, considering Xie’s age and prospects.

Xie had cheated his own aunt, going to the extent of preparing documents allegedly from Temasek to mislead her, and abusing the name and reputation of Temasek, said the prosecutor.

His offences against his clients were also premeditated, as Xie had decided in advance to cheat them to recoup losses from speculative investments, said the prosecutor.

He was allowed to begin his jail term on Feb 7.

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