Scammer in SG offering electronics on Carousell gets jail for cheating 128 people of nearly S$148,000

On May 23, Ong was sentenced to 23 months and six weeks’ jail after he pleaded guilty to one count each of cheating and an offence under the Computer Misuse Act. — Image by fabrikasimf on Freepik

SINGAPORE: A serial conman was in the process of making full restitution to 13 scam victims he had duped on online marketplace Carousell when he reoffended and cheated another 128 people of nearly S$148,000 (RM502,299) on the same platform.

On May 23, Nicholas Ong Chang Hui, 23, was sentenced to 23 months and six weeks’ jail after he pleaded guilty to one count each of cheating and an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.

Ong was a full-time national serviceman in 2020 when he perpetrated a scam on Carousell involving the purported sale of Secretlab gaming chairs, causing 13 victims to lose a total of S$4,359 (RM14,794).

Court documents did not disclose details about this case, but Ong, who completed his national service in 2021, was in the midst of giving full restitution to the victims when he reoffended and went on to dupe more people.

To date, he has made only partial restitution to victims in the earlier case, and losses amounting to S$2,413 (RM8,189) remain outstanding.

Between June 7, 2021, and Jan 26, 2022, Ong went on Carousell pretending he had items such as iPhones and PlayStation 5 game consoles to sell.

Claiming to be accepting pre-orders for various electronic products, he said interested customers had to provide full payment upfront for the items.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Shiau Yin said: “As it turned out, the accused neither had the intention nor ability to fulfil the orders. Upon receipt of the monies from customers, the accused would spend it on gambling and his personal expenditure.

“The accused committed the offences out of pure greed. In order to attract customers, he would put up advertisements on Carousell and deliberately priced the products lower than market rate in a bid to entice buyers.”

The DPP did not reveal details about the actual prices. But among other things, she said Ong had offered to sell an iPhone 13 at up to S$130 (RM441) lower than the market rate.

Ong also offered to sell a Rolex watch on Carousell and duped a victim into transferring S$5,000 (RM16,969) to him.

DPP Wong said when customers pressed Ong for the products, he would placate them by refunding them with monies he had received from other victims.

In the case involving the 128 victims, he duped them into giving him nearly S$148,000 (RM502,299) but made a restitution of only S$3,400 (RM11,539).

The police said in an earlier statement that they received reports from multiple victims in January 2022, and Ong was charged in a district court soon after.

In an unrelated case, he was out on bail in Oct 17, 2022, when an unknown person contacted him via messaging platform Telegram and offered him cash in exchange for his bank account details.

He reoffended yet again by sharing such details with the person, but he did not receive any money for doing so.

Scammers used his bank account to receive cash, and nine police reports linked to these transactions were made. The DPP said the total reported losses linked to these reports came up to nearly S$68,500 (RM232,483).

On Tuesday, DPP Wong urged the court to sentence Ong to at least 25 months and two weeks’ jail. She added that general deterrence must be the predominant sentencing principle in ecommerce scam cases.

She told the court that based on statistics released by the Singapore Police Force, ecommerce scams have remained among the top five scam types for four consecutive years.

The DPP added: “The police noted that in 2022, there was a staggering increase of 74.5% of ecommerce scams reported, compared to 2021.

“Further, the total amount reported to be cheated increased by 261% to at least S$21.3mil (RM72.31mil) in 2022, from at least S$5.9mil (RM20.03mil) in 2021.”

Defence lawyer Riko Isaac told the court his client had a gambling problem and was remorseful.

Ong’s bail was set at S$20,000 (RM67,906) on Tuesday, and he is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on June 20 to begin serving his sentence. – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network

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