SINGAPORE — Reprising tactics which had landed her in jail on three previous occasions, a 75-year-old woman scammed her friend of nearly S$650,000 by manipulating the latter into thinking that she could assist in operating six Singapore Pools 4D outlets.
Lim Siew Har, convicted in July for 12 counts of cheating, was sentenced to 57 months in jail by a District Court on Wednesday (Oct 11).
The sentence, three months short of the punishment sought by the prosecution, is the heaviest she has received since she was first jailed in 1981 for cheating offences using the same modus operandi.
Lim was convicted and jailed for similar offences in 1983 and 2003, when she was given a 40-month sentence.
In delivering the sentence on Wednesday, District Judge Lorraine Ho expressed disappointment at Lim’s history of repeat offences, and pointed out that the elderly Singaporean had become “more emboldened” while her plans turned “more elaborate”.
“Don’t think you’ll be let off simply because of old age and ill health,” said District Judge Ho, noting that a strong deterrent had to be sent to others.
“It is with a heavy heart to send someone to prison when she could spend her twilight years with her family… but she had brought this upon herself,” the judge added.
The court heard that Lim cheated her friend, elderly housewife Madam Leow Boon Tee, of her retirement savings worth S$646,900.
Over the course of ten months beginning in January 2011, Lim devised an elaborate ruse to get Mdm Leow, who is in her 70s, to assist her in running six Singapore Pools outlets located in Marina Bay Sands, Bedok and Clementi.
For instance, she told Mdm Leow she would have to cough up S$60,000 for a deposit, S$3,500 for legal fees and S$1,800 for stationery fees.
In March that same year, Lim continued her scam by suggesting that Mdm Leow “invest” in even more outlets located at Orchard, Chai Chee. She also suggested converting Mdm Leow’s Toa Payoh shop house into a Singapore Pools outlet.
Lim, in a bid to reassure her friend, brought her to the various outlets which she would purportedly take over. She even arranged for contractors to visit Mdm Leow’s shop house to consider renovation plans.
Mdm Leow eventually passed the money over to Lim in cash and cheques.
Mdm Leow confronted Lim in March 2012 after realising she had been cheated.
Arguing for the court to hand Lim a 60 months’ jail sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez disclosed that Lim had used the money from Mdm Leow to pay off her debts and to feed her gambling habit.
Mdm Leow was left distraught and suffered substantial financial losses as Lim did not make any restitution.
Lim’s lawyer Mr Derrick Kang pleaded for a lighter 24-month jail term, saying that the elderly offender’s age and state of health would make a longer sentence “much more of an ordeal”.
District Judge Ho pointed out, however, that Lim appeared not to have learnt her lesson and continued to commit such offences even in her old age.
Lim is currently out on bail pending an appeal.