A couple in Singapore were given individual jail terms on Monday for scamming people to pay thousands of dollars for magical talismans.
Last Wednesday, 67-year-old Singaporean Ong Choon Lin and his 62-year-old Malaysian wife, Ng Kim Yew, were each convicted of 20 charges of “abetment by conspiracy to cheat” after a 23-day trial, according to the Straits Times.
For over a decade, the couple has usurped over SGD 800,000 ($587, 800) from unsuspecting victims who were deceived into believing that the talismans they were selling were imbued with special powers by a spiritual master from Thailand or Tibet.
In the scam, a potential victim is manipulated into thinking that the powers of the talisman could help them overcome life problems or provide good fortune for them and their loved ones.
Ng, who was the head of the operation, would act as a fortune-teller, conning victims into paying a few hundred dollars to SGD 38,800 ($28,500) per talisman.
While Ng would claim to the victims that the markings on the talismans were written and chanted over by a Thai grandmaster or Tibetan spiritual master, it was revealed that it was actually Ong who produced the talismans.
Ng would warn the clients that the talismans, which are given in sealed packages after payment, are supposed to be kept unopened, otherwise they would lose their powers.
According to District Judge Lee Poh Choo, the couple had been exploiting Ng’s followers for over 10 years as they have been doing the scam since 2005.
Although the couple initially faced 38 charges each, 18 were considered during sentencing. Ong was given a four-year and seven months prison sentence, while his wife was given a sentence of five years and nine months in jail. The maximum penalty for each charge is 10 years’ jail and a fine.
As Ng was the “face” and the main promoter of the entire scam, the courts have deemed her culpability greater than her husband’s. All the charges against Ng involved a total of SGD 816,868 ($600,000), while in Ong’s case, the total was SGD 734,068 ($540,000).
The judge lamented that Ng had no remorse in causing other people financial difficulty. Even when the victims did not have enough money for the talismans, Ng would convince them to borrow money or pawn their belongings just to get easy money from them.
Prosecutors also exposed Ng for often visiting casinos, where she lost “more money than her income”.
Feature image via Zaobao