Parcel scammers conned over 300 victims of $19 million
Two men jailed for being part of syndicate that posed as police officers from China
As of end-August, 348 people have fallen prey to a ruse commonly known as the "DHL parcel scam".
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Leong Wing Tuck told the court that the victims have lost more than $19 million in all.
He added: "This would not be the full picture as it can be expected that some victims would be reluctant to come forward to file reports."
To date, Singapore police have managed to arrest 12 people involved in the ruse and the first two were dealt with in court yesterday.
The cases for the remaining 10 are at the pre-trial stage.
Mohamad Afiq Ishak, 24, a Malaysian, was jailed 18 months after pleading guilty to one of three counts of money laundering. He allowed his bank account to receive $45,900 in criminal proceeds on July 27.
He was caught while trying to withdraw $12,600 that day.
Suhaimi Jaffar, 36, also a Malaysian, was jailed 20 months after pleading guilty to one of four counts of similar offences.
The court heard that $58,000 in criminal proceeds was transferred to his bank account on July 25.
Police arrested him after he tried to withdraw $46,300 from his account that day.
Victims of the scam would usually receive phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be police officers from China.
The imposters would claim they had intercepted parcels the victims had purportedly sent that contained illegal items.
The fraudsters would ask for their bank account details and personal identification numbers (PIN), supposedly to verify their identities.
The unsuspecting victims would comply out of fear, only to realise that their hard-earned cash had been siphoned away without permission.
The court heard that Afiq and Suhaimi were involved in a transnational syndicate that had a network of operators and runners in Malaysia.
In May, Suhaimi, who was in debt, met a man known only as Azmin.
He asked for Azmin's help and was told that to secure a loan, he had to open a bank account in Singapore. He agreed to do so on July 22.
Separately, Afiq was also roped in with the lure of making fast cash.
On July 21, a man known only as Tiger AP told him he could earn easy money by opening a bank account in Singapore, which Afiq did on July 22.
Tiger AP also told Afiq he would receive RM4,000 (S$1,300) for successfully withdrawing monies from the account.
Three days later, Chinese national Li Hong Mei, 37, received a call from someone pretending to be a police officer from China claiming that her parcel contained illegal materials.
She disclosed her personal details and PIN out of fear and later discovered that $32,600 was missing from her bank account.
Investigations revealed that the cash had been transferred to Suhaimi's bank account. Three other women were similarly duped in July.
One of them, Myanmar national Nan Mya Sein, 35, had $25,400 siphoned from her account to Suhaimi's.
The other two, Ms Ni Yaxian, 32, and Ms Yan Zhiqiang, 53, both Chinese nationals, had a total of $45,900 transferred from their bank accounts to Afiq's.
The monies will be returned to the four victims.
Afiq and Suhaimi, who were not represented by lawyers, pleaded for leniency yesterday.
However, DPP Leong urged District Judge May Mesenas to sentence each man to between 20 and 24 months' jail.
He said: "Singapore's reputation as a safe and crime-free environment has been painstakingly built through the diligence of its policymakers and law enforcement agencies.
"It must not be tarnished by opportunistic and avaricious criminals who see its residents as targets to be exploited."
For money-laundering, each man could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.