I cheated cleaner but it was $30,000, not $400,000
One of the two women accused of conning a cleaner of $400,000 over 15 years has admitted to cheating him.
But Madam Tan Hwee Ngo, 65 insisted that she took only $30,000 from Mr Tan Soy Kiang, a 70-year-old who thought he was servicing a debt that he owed the Government.
She told The New Paper in her flat at Indus Road yesterday: "Yes, I did cheat Mr Tan and I know it was wrong."
Speaking candidly of her love for mahjong, which saddled her with debt, Madam Tan said in Mandarin: "I used to play mahjong a lot when I was younger.
"I played so much that I owed more than $10,000."
Driven by her debt, she started cheating Mr Tan together with her friend, Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 69, more than 10 years ago.
Her long-time friend, Madam Boo, had introduced her to Mr Tan, whom the latter had known for many years.
Madam Tan said: "I was the one who came up with the scheme to take his money, but Madam Boo was in on it."
But Madam Boo maintained her innocence and claimed she had also been conned.
Madam Tan is out on police bail after she was arrested. Madam Boo is assisting the police in their investigations.
They stopped only after Mr Tan's niece, Ms Pamela Lim, 39, confronted them at a fast-food outlet in February last year.
Madam Tan said: "Ms Lim told us that we could settle this the nice way or the ugly way.
"And if we refused to repay his money, she would tell the media about us."
She said that she signed a contract, which was written in English. Though she could not read it, she understood that she was to return Mr Tan's money in monthly instalments of $500.
She claimed that she had been doing so on the fifth of every month since then.
"I've been paying for a year now. I've already returned at least $5,000."
Madam Tan said that she did not sign the contract under duress.
"Ms Lim did not force me to sign it," she said.
But she refuted Ms Lim's claim that the pair had swindled Mr Tan of $400,000.
"It can't be that much. I took only $30,000 at most," she said.
Her version of events contradicted what she had told Shin Min Daily News.
The Chinese evening newspaper quoted Madam Tan as denying having tricked Mr Tan into handing over his money.
She also said she was forced to sign the contract as she was afraid of Ms Lim.
Madam Tan's son, 27, who was not named in the Shin Min report, claimed that she only took amounts ranging from $400 to $600 from Mr Tan for six months until she cleared her mahjong debt.
But Madam Boo continued cheating Mr Tan and handing his money to Madam Tan, he alleged.
Madam Tan said that ever since the story broke, she has been getting stares from her neighbours.
As TNP was leaving, she asked: "Nothing will happen to me, right?"
She's a victim too
She maintained her innocence and claimed to be a victim herself.
Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 69, one of two woman accused of cheating Mr Tan Soy Kiang of $400,000 over 15 years, claimed that she had been paying an average of $200 monthly for 10 years to the other woman, Madam Tan Hwee Ngo, 65.
Speaking on her behalf, her son who gave his name only as Mr Teo, 48, said Madam Tan had advised Madam Boo, a retired cleaner, to join an association that helped the needy elderly more than a decade ago.
The restaurant chef said his mother, who had paid $390 to join the association, suspected something was amiss after a few months when she didn't receive any help from the association.
Mr Teo, who spoke to The New Paper at their three-room flat in Kim Keat, added that Madam Tan told his mother the association had closed after someone absconded with its money, and they needed to engage a lawyer to get a share of the money.
This was how Madam Boo ended up giving money to Madam Tan for the next 10 years, he claimed.
Mr Teo said: "My mother would give $100 or $200 each time. She resorted to pawning her jewellery."
When his mother ran out of money, Mr Teo claimed that Madam Tan asked Madam Boo to approach her good friend, Mr Tan, for help.
Mr Teo claimed that Madam Tan told Mr Tan: "If you help her to pay the lawyer's fees, if the lawyer wins the case, you can also share in the compensation."
And Mr Tan willingly gave his mother the money, Mr Teo claimed.
Through the years, Madam Tan would ask for money from his mother and she would then get it from Mr Tan and hand it to Madam Tan, he added.
Mr Teo also claimed that Mr Tan's niece, Ms Pamela Lim, 39, made his mother sign an agreement under duress last February to repay Mr Tan. He said his mother made a police report on Sunday against Ms Lim and showed a copy of the report to TNP.
Madam Tan could not be reached last night to respond to Madam Boo's allegations about her while Ms Lim said Madam Boo's claims were untrue.
- CHAI HUNG YIN
Cleaner's niece refutes allegations
SUPPORT: Mr Tan Soy Kiang lives with his niece Pamela Lim and her family.
When told about Madam Tan Hwee Ngo's claims that she took only $30,000 from Mr Tan Soy Kiang, his niece said that it was not true.
Ms Pamela Lim said the $30,000 was a figure that her husband had come up with.
"It was a heavily discounted sum that he said the women could repay to try to get them to stop extorting money further from my uncle," she said.
She also refuted Madam Tan's claim that they had stopped taking money from him since February last year and that she had repaid $5,000.
"Not true. Between September 2013 and February 2014, they made only three payments of $500. They were inconsistent with their payments," Ms Lim said.
As for Madam Boo Sok Hiang's claims that Mr Tan willingly gave her money when she told him of her need to pay a lawyer to try to get her money back from the defunct association that helped the needy elderly, Ms Lim said it was a load of rubbish.
She also said that she did not threaten the women or force them to sign the agreement to repay the money to her uncle.
"What I meant by the 'hard way' was me taking the story and recording to the media.
"I merely wanted them to stop cheating my uncle of his hard-earned money," Ms Lim said.
"I just wanted my uncle to know he doesn't owe them or anyone money.
"In fact, my uncle was so kind, he didn't want me to report them to the police.
"He didn't want them to go to jail on the grounds that they have families."
- JUDITH TAN