SINGAPORE – She received more than $1 million in ill-gotten gains in her bank accounts after taking instructions from a man she met online in July 2016.
Subsequently, Annee Foong, now 48, received only about $3,800 from the man – one “Steve Williams”, who claimed to be a British engineer.
According to court documents, the Singaporean’s bank accounts had been used to receive monies from cheated victims.
Three of them – all based in Singapore – were duped into transferring cash totalling more than $200,000 into Foong’s bank accounts in late 2016.
A 59-year-old man was duped into depositing $95,000 into one of Foong’s bank accounts after he befriended a person called “Morris Herbert” on Facebook in early October 2016.
Herbert then told the man that he wanted to buy a house in Singapore and would transfer $1.2 million into the man’s bank account to assist with a purported down payment.
Some time around Oct 20 that year, Herbert told the man that the monies were purportedly held by Maybank Malaysia.
Herbert also lied, claiming that Maybank Malaysia had asked for “transaction fee payments” that would be refunded within 24 hours.
Falling for the ruse, the man transferred $95,000 into Foong’s bank account in late October that year.
A 48-year-old woman got to know a man calling himself “Christopher Chung” through an undisclosed online dating site some time in November 2014, the court heard.
In late November 2016, Chung lied to her and said that some of his monies were seized by Nigerian Customs.
Chung also claimed that he needed cash for their release.
The woman was then duped into transferring $34,500 into another bank account belonging to Foong in December 2016.
A 69-year-old man was cheated of more than $100,000 after he got to know a “Paul Web” who claimed to be an orthopaedic surgeon.
Court documents do not disclose how they met.
The court heard that Web claimed he wanted to operate his clinic in Singapore and the victim then arranged to meet him here for this purpose.
But on Oct 3 that year, Web called him, claiming that he was “held under custody” by Malaysian Customs and that “administration fees” had to be paid for his release.
The victim then transferred the monies into a third bank account belonging to Foong.
“These monies represented the victim’s retirement savings,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu.
The court heard that the fourth victim was the Capital Bank in Botswana.
On Jan 18, 2017, Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received a call from the financial institution’s chief executive, who said his bank’s system had been hacked by unknown persons and that US$315,000 (S$445,500) had been transferred into one of Foong’s bank accounts.
By then, she had managed to transfer around $12,000 of the amount from the account but was unable to withdraw the remaining sum of about $434,000.
This was because bank staff managed to identify the suspicious transaction and blocked it. The CAD later seized the remaining amount from the account.
On Wednesday (Oct 6), Foong, who turned heads with her striking white hair, pleaded guilty to offences including seven counts of allowing bank accounts belonging to her and her daughter to receive nearly $690,000 in ill-gotten gains.
The court will consider 38 other charges linked to the remaining amount during sentencing.
She will be sentenced next month.