Woman conned of $400,000: Money is tainted with my blood and tears
Cleaner who lost $400,000 to con artists says life savings are gone
For 60 years, Madam Goh Kah Keow lived a frugal life, saving as much money as she could as a cleaner while taking on odd jobs such as sweeping floors, collecting newspapers and even helping people do their laundry.
The 74-year-old, who has never married, does not have any formal education as her family was too poor to send her to school.
Through her toil and sweat, Madam Goh managed to save more than $400,000 in cash and jewellery, which she set aside for the day she stops working.
But her hard-earned life savings vanished in an instant after she helped a woman "in distress".
Unknown to her, the woman was part of a gang of five Chinese nationals who had targeted her in an elaborate scam.
Two of the five - Li Lianying, 50, and Li Peng, 45 - were jailed yesterday for cheating Madam Goh and another victim. (See report on facing page.)
"To earn that money, I worked till my fingers were bent and my skin became like tree bark," she told The New Paper in Mandarin at her home yesterday.
"I hate them to death for cheating me. That money is tainted with my blood and tears. They will get their retribution."
On Nov 20 last year, Li Lianying, who was crying, approached Madam Goh who was waiting at a bus stop near Roxy Square in Marine Parade.
Madam Goh, who lives alone in a nearby studio flat, recalled: "She told me that her daughter was ill and that she was a foreigner from Taiwan and did not know where to go or what to do to get help.
"Two other women came along and claimed to know a good medium and they could take us to him. I followed them because I felt sorry for (Li Lianying).
"Her tears cost me my life savings. All those fake tears. She also cried when she was in court, but it's all an act," said Madam Goh, who had read about the court proceedings in a Chinese newspaper.
One of the women told Madam Goh that she had to labour all her life and had not got married because evil spirits were following her.
What the woman said next spooked Madam Goh - the spirits would soon bring harm to her.
Fearing for her life, Madam Goh agreed to follow their instructions to get rid of the spirits. They gave her a white bag and told her to put all her money and jewellery in it and bring it to them.
So she withdrew all her savings of about $400,000 from three banks. She then put the money and the little jewellery she had - a pair of gold earrings and a gold ring worth about $1,000 - into the bag.
When she met the women, they held a "prayer session" with her at a corner in Roxy Square. They told her not to open the bag and to meet them again at the bus stop three days later.
"They said that if I opened the bag, bad things would happen. After the prayer session, they even told me to be careful with my money and not to show it or lend it to anyone in case they cheated me," Madam Goh said.
"They acted like they really cared for me and even told me that I would be able to live till 92."
When she went to the bus stop on Nov 23, the women failed to show.
Madam Goh said she had a bad feeling but, still fearing for her life, did not open the bag until Dec 1.
Even then, she was so worried something bad would happen to her when she opened the bag that she called two of her sisters over to keep her company.
'I FEEL SO STUPID'
"I was worried I would faint when I opened the bag. So I asked my sisters to stand by just in case," she said.
The last thing Madam Goh expected to see was the bag filled with newspapers and bottles. Her money and jewellery were gone.
That was when she realised she had been cheated.
"I feel so stupid. I've read about the elderly getting cheated in similar ways before, but I had felt so frightened that I didn't even think about it," she said.
Her sister, Madam Goh Kah Noi, 72, said: "My sister is a simple person. She tries to help people as much as she can. She probably wanted to help the woman. So she wasn't suspicious of them."
Madam Goh earns about $700 a month as a part-time cleaner. She no longer takes on extra odd jobs because of her age and the money is just enough for her daily needs.
She said: "I cried for two weeks after the incident. If I cry any more, I'll go blind.
"Life is still the same. I can't get the money back and I won't try to earn it back. What if people try to take it away from me again?"
When her good friends heard about her plight, they pooled together money to buy her a pair of jade earrings, a pendant and bangle to cheer her up.
When a TNP photographer went to her flat to take pictures yesterday evening, Madam Goh was wearing the bangle, but she had wrapped a towel around her wrist in an attempt to conceal it.
She said that although she had lost all her money, life goes on and she does not want to dwell on this "expensive lesson".
"The next time I see someone crying on the street, I will just pretend to be blind," she said.
My sister is a simple person. She tries to help people as much as she can. She probably wanted to help the woman. So she wasn't suspicious of them.
- Madam Goh Kah Noi on her sister Goh Kah Keow
Cheat cries in court, gets ticked off
JAILED: Li Lianying and Li Peng. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
She could not stop crying when it was her turn to speak.
Standing in the dock in the State Court yesterday, Li Lianying, a 50-year-old Chinese national, told the judge between sobs that she was sorry for her actions.
Li, who was part of a gang of five Chinese who cheated two elderly women last November, asked for leniency, saying: "My mother's 84 and needs to be looked after. My father just passed away. I apologise to all the victims. I'm truly sorry. It was a moment of folly."
However, District Judge Soh Tze Bian rejected Li's plea for leniency, saying: "It can't be a moment of folly. You came here with the intention of cheating."
Stressing the seriousness of Li's crime, he said that the $439,000 the two victims were cheated of was not a small amount..
Added Judge Soh: "How do you justify all that? You cheated them of their entire life savings. You look at yourself, what about your victims?"
Court documents show that Madam Goh Kah Keow, who was cheated of $401,450, and Madam Chua Peck Har, who lost $37,550, were targeted by the group because of their old age and gullibility.
Pressing for a harsher sentence for Li, a divorcee who was not represented in court, Deputy Public Prosecutor Vadi PVSS argued that she had played a direct and active role in the scams.
He said: "There was direct interaction. She initiated the conversation with the victims. We (the prosecution) feel it (her punishment) should be a substantial amount."
Judge Soh sentenced Li to four years and 10 months in jail for two counts of cheating. A third charge of removing property gained from cheating was taken into consideration.
Another accomplice, Li Peng, 45, who had played a lesser role, was jailed for three years and five months. Three accomplices remain at large.
- ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
How do you justify all that? You cheated them of their entire life savings. You look at yourself, what about your victims?
- District Judge Soh Tze Bian
Swindlers preyed on victims' fears
THE NEW PAPER, MAY 31
The group of five Chinese nationals came to Singapore to prey on elderly women by exploiting their superstitions.
Their elaborate scam worked on two part-time cleaners, who were cheated of their life savings amounting to $439,000 in cash and jewellery.
Madam Goh Kah Keow, 74, was cheated of $401,450 and Madam Chua Peck Har, 66, of $37,550.
The group, comprising three women and two men, arrived in Singapore from Hong Kong on Nov 18 last year and cheated their elderly victims a few days later.
Two of the five - Li Lianying, 50, and Li Peng, 45 -were jailed yesterday while their three accomplices are believed to have fled.
On Nov 20, Li Lianying had approached Madam Goh at a bus stop near Roxy Square and told her about Li's "daughter who was hospitalised in Taiwan".
At this point, another woman walked past and claimed that she knew a medium. She offered to take them to consult him.
Just as they were about to leave, a third woman showed up and claimed to be the medium's granddaughter.
She told Madam Goh and the two women to remain at the bus stop while she sought her grandfather's advice. When she returned, she told Madam Goh that she was "haunted by vicious spirits".
She promised to help her get rid of the spirits if she brought all her savings and jewellery in a bag for a prayer session.
Unknown to her, the con artists switched bags and escaped with the money and jewellery. They cheated Madam Chua in a similar scam.