Bogus lawyer admits to cheating 10 people of nearly S$85,000

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The owner of a consulting company pretended to hold different positions, including that of a lawyer running a law firm, to cheat 10 people, causing losses totalling S$84,598.

Thong Meng Fie, who used to own Growportunity Consulting, had claimed that the company was a law firm.

He even hired staff to work for him and they were unaware that he was not qualified to practise law.

In reality, the conman had been sent to jail multiple times between 2000 and 2017 for offences including cheating.

Thong, 46, pleaded guilty on Friday to offences that includeeight counts of cheating.

He committed his some of the latest offences while he was under a remission order shortly after he was last released from prison in April 2019.

As part of the order, he was supposed to stay out of trouble from April 27, 2019, to Aug 25, 2020.

Instead, Thong returned to a life of crime mere months after his release.

The court heard that he had posted an online advertisement stating that Growportunity Consulting was a law firm.

He also hired four unsuspecting staff members to perform online marketing and administrative work for the company.

In early August 2019, a 51-year-old woman who was looking for a lawyer to represent her son in a criminal matter came across the advertisement and visited Thong's office in North Bridge Road.

Thong then lied to her that he was a lawyer and discussed her son's case with her.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tay Jingxi said: "After the discussion, the accused told (the woman) that he would take up her son's case.

"To perpetuate his lie, the accused issued a 'warrant to act', as well as other documents stating that he would 'represent' her/her son in the... matter."

Thong later duped the mother into paying him $45,500 in total over nine occasions between Aug 14 and Nov 27, 2019.

He used the monies to cover expenses such as for the rental of his office and his workers' salaries as well as their Central Provident Fund contributions.

Court documents did not disclose what happened next but the woman lodged a police report on Dec 13, 2019, stating that Thong had cheated her.

In early 2020, he got to know a 57-year-old facial therapist and they kept in touch with each other.

On Oct 24, 2020, he found out that she wanted to renovate her salon in Serangoon.

He then told the woman that he could help her with fengshui-related matters.

Thong contacted the facial therapist on Nov 1, 2020, and told her that it was purportedly a special day for prayers.

The DPP said: "The accused insisted that (the woman) let him change the fengshui of her salon.

"Believing that the accused was able and intended to do so, and feeling pressured from the accused's repeated requests, (she) agreed, and handed the accused $500 in cash that same day."

The woman had originally intended to use the money to buy supplies for running her salon, the court heard.

On Dec 20, 2020, she told police officers that Thong had cheated her.

He has made no restitution to the mother and the facial therapist.

Besides the two women, he cheated eight other people. To date, he has returned a total of $1,600 to two of them. He will be sentenced on Nov 7.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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