SINGAPORE — A 23-year-old conwoman who tricked a 56-year-old naive and superstitious canteen assistant into handing over nearly $50,000 by lying that she would help the victim find a husband through secret religious rites was on Monday (7 June) jailed for one year and three months.
Over nine occasions in 2015, Soh Chih Hui duped the victim, who earned only $1,700 a month, of sums ranging between $100 and $7,000, saying she needed the cash for rituals, prayers, sweets and offerings. Soh, who was between 17 and 18 at the time, told the victim not to tell anyone about the rituals, lest they be unfruitful.
After running out of money, the victim even pawned her jewellery at Soh's behest and also knelt on the floor to beg her elder brother for cash. She even took out a bank loan, which she only managed to repay after selling her HDB flat.
Soh was earlier last year convicted on one amalgamated cheating charge involving $49,600.
At the State Courts on Monday, District Judge Carol Ling also ordered Soh to pay the victim $49,600 in compensation. If the culprit fails to cough up the amount, she will have to spend another two weeks behind bars.
About the case
Soh knew the victim through her mother, who was the victim's primary school friend. The victim later worked for Soh's father at his bak kut teh stall at Tampines.
Soh knew that the victim was looking for a husband and that she was superstitious and would make offerings to Kumantong, the child spirit.
At trial, the victim said Soh claimed to be able to introduce her to a man who would become her boyfriend and later husband.
"According to what the accused told her, this man was 51 years old, worked at POSB, earned a monthly salary of $7,000 and had a temple in Changi. The accused even showed the victim a photo of the man in her handphone," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu in his closing submissions.
"The victim testified that the accused spoke to her in a high pitched, child-like voice and appeared to her as a child deity. The accused also spoke to her in a low voice and appeared to her as a deity ‘Fu Wang’," said DPP Hu.
"In the capacity as the child deity or ‘Fu Wang’, the accused told the victim that she needed to ‘borrow fate’ before she could be with her prospective husband. To ‘borrow fate’, the victim had to hand over cash to the accused to buy make-up and cosmetics, branded shoes and clothing, to chant prayers, do rituals and make offerings," the prosecutor added.
The victim eventually came to her senses in January 2016 and made a police report, after Soh told her to sell her HDB flat. By this time, the victim's family had also become suspicious of her behaviour, after she borrowed money from them to pass to Soh. The victim's brother passed her $12,000 and $7,000 on two occasions.
At trial, Soh denied the prosecution's case outright: she claimed not to have taken any money from the victim and said she did not help the victim find a husband.
In asking for a jail term of at least one-and-a-half years, DPP Hu said Soh "exploited the naivety of the victim" and repeatedly deceived her over six months between April and September 2015.
"She did so by manipulating the victim’s superstitious nature and exploited her desire to find a companion to bleed her dry of her hard-earned savings," he said.
And even after the victim ran out of cash, Soh "kept pressing the victim to sell off her HDB flat and hand over the sales proceeds."
DPP Hu said, "The victim also took a loan from Citibank and gave the loan sum of S$6,700 to the accused. The victim only managed to repay her Citibank loan with interest, after she sold her HDB flat."
Soh will begin her sentence on 5 July.
For cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
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