For five years, 55-year-old housewife Leong Lai Yee ran two massive Ponzi schemes and cheated 53 people a total of S$35.43 million, according to reports from Today and Lianhe Zaobao.

Today adds that many of these victims were close friends.

Leong pleaded guilty to 51 counts of cheating and using the benefits of her criminal conduct, although another 806 similar charges were into consideration.

She was sentenced a 14-year jail term on May 17, 2019.

What happened

First Ponzi scheme cheated 13 victims

A former real estate agent, Leong cheated the victims into investing in distressed properties that she claimed to be “risk-free”.

She also promised lucrative returns of ten to 30 per cent within six to eight months.

Leong told the victims that she would be purchasing properties in the prime districts from sellers who are facing bankruptcy and reselling these properties to foreign buyers.

She claimed that she was working with a banker and lawyer.

However, on the grounds of trust and confidentiality, Leong did not substantiate her claims with any documents.

Leong cheated 13 victims between January 2010 to May 2015 with the distressed property scheme.

Second Ponzi scheme

Separately, Leong also ran another Ponzi scheme in the same period.

This time, she claimed that the investments were used to fund start-up businesses and provide companies with short-term financing.

She promised monthly returns of seven to nine per cent.

Leong even encouraged her victims to use money from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) or pawn their valuables to invest with her.

According to Today, some of the money collected was used to pay other “investors” in order to keep the scheme going.

The rest of the money from these victims financed Leong’s personal spending, which includes mortgage and car loan repayments, as well as family expenditures.

Exposed

Leong’s scheme was exposed when she started to delay payments to the victims by late 2014.

She then promised to pay them by May 18, 2015.

But Leong did not honour her words, and a total of 107 people eventually made police reports against her.

Leong managed to flee to Thailand on May 15, 2015, before the Commercial Affairs Department carried out an investigation.

On November 2, 2017, she surrendered herself at the Singapore embassy in Bangkok.

She was arrested two days later upon her return.

The scale of this fraud was described by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin as “unprecedented” and one that “shocks the conscience of the man on the street”, calling for a jail term of at least 14 to 15 years.

However, Leong’s lawyer, Tito Isaac, pleaded for lighter sentencing of eight to nine years on behalf of Leong, citing the reason that she was “deeply remorseful”.

Isaac added that Leong was also capable of “honest and hard work”.

Top photo from image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



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