Two cheat elderly of jewellery, cash worth over $400,000
China nationals dupe elderly women in elaborate scam
They promised the two elderly women that they would pray for them and bless their valuables to avoid a calamity.
But it was all an elaborate scam and the group of five conmen were actually preying on their victims for their jewellery and cash. They eventually made off with valuables worth a total $439,000.
Yesterday, Li Lianying, 50, and Li Peng, 45, pleaded guilty in court for scheming with three others to deceive Madam Goh Kah Keow, 72, of jewellery and cash worth $401,450.
The two Chinese nationals also admitted to cheating Madam Chua Peck Har, 66, of jewellery and cash worth $37,550.
The three other Chinese nationals - Li Cai Hong, 45, Li Lian Ying, 40, and Li Tu Wang, 43 - are on the run.
Court documents stated that the five arrived in Singapore from Hong Kong on Nov 18 last year. During their stay here, they hatched a plan to cheat elderly women.
On Nov 20, they came across Madam Goh alone at a bus stop near Roxy Square.
Li Lianying approached her and told a story about her "daughter who was hospitalised in Taiwan with an incurable disease".
She asked whether Madam Goh knew of a medium who could help her "daughter".
At this point, Cai Hong walked past and claimed that she knew a medium. He offered to take Lianying and Madam Goh to him.
Madam Goh, who felt sympathetic towards Lianying, decided to follow the two China women. As they were about to leave the bus stop, a third China woman, Lian Ying, came along.
Cai Hong claimed that Lian Ying was the medium's granddaughter and approached her. Cai Hong and Lianying then pretended to plead with Lian Ying for help. Madam Goh, who was duped, joined in.
Meanwhile, Li Peng and Tu Wang kept watch from a distance.
Lian Ying instructed her two female accomplices and Madam Goh to wait at the bus stop and said she would seek the medium's advice.
But when she returned, she turned to Madam Goh and claimed that she was "haunted by vicious spirits who were trying to harm her", and that only a "high priest" could help her.
Feeling helpless, Madam Goh asked if the medium could help her.
Lian Ying told her to bring all her savings and jewellery for a prayer session.
Cai Hong accompanied Madam Goh to her home, where she dug up her jewellery, cash and bank books. She withdrew all her savings and returned to the bus stop.
There, she handed over her valuables worth $401,450, which were then placed in a green bag.
Madam Goh was asked to close her eyes for a "prayer session" during which the trio switched the bag with another similar one.
She was handed the swopped bag and instructed to return to the bus stop three days later.
Lian Ying also told her not to open the bag before then, or the prayers would be rendered void.
Madam Goh agreed and left with the bag.
She returned to the bus stop on Nov 23, but none of the Chinese nationals turned up.
She finally opened the bag on Dec 1, only to find water bottles and newspapers inside. She made a police report that day.
Court documents also stated that the group had cheated Madam Chua of jewellery and cash worth $37,550 in similar fashion.
The five left Singapore on Nov 20 last year, but returned on March 9.
Lianying and Li Peng were arrested when they arrived at Changi Airport.
The other three, who were on the same flight, escaped to China by taking another flight the same day. They had bought the return tickets within the transit area.
Court documents stated that Lianying had surrendered $4,225 as restitution to both victims.
Yesterday, District Judge Soh Tze Bian said that given the large amount, the sentence should reflect the offence.
The duo will be back in court on June 19 for sentencing.
If found guilty, they each face up to 10 years' jail and a fine for each charge.
BY THE NUMBERS
The total amount the five China nationals made off with from duping two elderly women