SINGAPORE: After cheating nearly S$100,000 (US$75,000) from clients who paid for feng shui courses and overseas trips to repay his debts and fund expensive purchases, a man surrendered himself to the police.
Foo Chee Heng, 42, was a business development executive at Chinese geomancy company Joey Yap Pte Ltd when he cheated 11 customers.
Foo was jailed for two years and 10 months on Monday (Jan 15) after he pleaded guilty to three charges of cheating, two of which were amalgamated. Another eight counts of cheating were taken into consideration for sentencing.
As part of his job, Foo was responsible for promoting feng shui courses and overseas trips offered by his company. Instead, he pocketed over S$95,000 from customers under the guise of enrolling them for the courses and trips.
One victim was offered a couple of courses, including a feng shui mastery course, for a total of S$8,228. The victim transferred the money to a bank account belonging to Foo’s mother across two dates in October 2019.
As Foo was bankrupt, he did not have a bank account and had been controlling his mother’s since 2016. After receiving the funds, Foo did not register the victim for the course.
Another victim paid S$39,374 to him for courses and overseas trips between June 2019 and April 2020.
One victim contacted Foo in January 2020 to ask the price of a trip to Taiwan offered by his company. Foo said the trip cost S$11,500 for two, but said he would source for cheaper alternatives.
Several days later, Foo told the victim that he had two openings for the discounted price of S$8,500. The victim transferred the amount the next day.
None of the victims attended the courses or trips they were owed. Instead, Foo spent all the funds paying off personal debts and buying expensive goods.
On Aug 4, 2020, Foo called the police emergency hotline to confess. He told the police that he wanted to “confess myself for doing forgery crime” and offered to walk to the nearest police station. “I just want to turn myself in,” he said.
He surrendered at Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre on the same day. To date, he has not made restitution.
After Foo surrendered himself, Joey Yap Pte Ltd conducted an internal review of the customer portfolios Foo had handled and found that he had deceived 11 customers.
Deputy Public Prosecutor J Jayaletchmi said that Foo had previously been jailed for eight months for cheating offences in 2015. She sought at least three years’ jail for Foo.
Foo’s lawyer Wee Hong Shern, who argued for two years’ jail, detailed his client’s background leading to the offences.
Mr Wee said Foo was brought up by his mother after his father deserted the family. Foo’s mother indulged in gambling after the pain of being abandoned and soon developed an addiction which landed her in debt.
“She often asked our client for money, telling him that she was in debt due to her gambling addiction. Our client was slow to oblige, but she would occasionally engage in emotional blackmail, telling him that he had forgotten how she had singlehandedly brought him up in the past,” said Mr Wee.
In 2019, the family was harassed by loansharks, who demanded the repayment of a S$200,000 debt. Foo then made use of his role at the company to cheat customers of their money.
However, he grew greedy and continued his scheming ways to earn extra income until his “consciousness caught up with him”, Mr Wee said.
“When he came into this line, he had thought he was improving their spiritual health, but over time, he became skeptical and could not live with what he was doing,” said Mr Wee.
Cheating carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.