SINGAPORE — While on probation for cheating and theft, a youth stole his grandfather's cheques and encashed them.
Darren Kwok Yew Feng, 20, managed to steal $31,000 from his 75-year-old grandfather, who lodged a police report against him in September 2019.
Around a year after that, Kwok also cheated an AXA Insurance financial consultant by pretending to have paid for insurance policies.
Kwok pleaded guilty to a count of theft in dwelling and a count of cheating, with five counts of forgery for the purpose of cheating to be considered for his sentencing.
In August 2019, needing money for his personal expenses and to repay a friend from whom he had borrowed money, he decided to steal from his grandfather, whom he lived with.
He decided to forge his grandfather’s signature on the cheques and insert his own name as a payee. He knew that his grandfather's cheque books were kept in an unlocked drawer.
In August 2019, Kwok took five cheques and forged his grandfather’s signature. He filled in the payee and bank account before encashing the cheques for amounts of between $9,000 and $12,000.
Of the five cheques, three were successfully encashed, with $31,000 withdrawn from his grandfather’s account and deposited into his own account.
Between August and September 2019, Kwok also stole other cheques pre-signed by his grandfather, with the payee already filled as “cash”. Court documents did not state how much he received from these cheques, which he also encashed.
On 19 September 2019, the grandfather made a police report about the unauthorised withdrawals. He later discovered that several cheques were missing and suspected that his grandson had stolen them.
Cheated financial consultant
In September 2020, Kwok met an AXA Insurance financial consultant through LinkedIn and agreed to meet to discuss insurance policies.
They met twice, with Kwok eventually signing up for several policies, which required a one-time payment of $7,200. Kwok asked to pay for the policies in instalments but was rejected.
The consultant agreed to lend Kwok $3,600 if he paid for the policies in full first. Kwok agreed to the arrangement and promised to return monthly instalments of $300 to the financial consultant for the loan.
On 23 October 2020, Kwok informed the consultant that he would make payment to AXA Insurance through SAM e-NETS. He performed the transactions via the SAM application on his mobile phone. He then sent two screenshots of the “successful” payments to the consultant.
Believing the transactions had gone through, the consultant transferred $3,600 to Kwok on 23 October 2020.
However, a few days later, she found that the payments Kwok made did not go through. Kwok only had a balance of $478.53 in his bank account.
Kwok knew that even if he did not have sufficient funds and the payment did not go through, the SAM payment system would still show the transfers. He therefore schemed to cheat the consultant by showing her screenshots of the "successful" transactions.
On 4 December 2020, Kwok made full restitution to the consultant.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Thaker told the court that Kwok had been convicted of theft in dwelling, cheating and another count under the Computer Misuse Act on 30 April 2019, for which he was sentenced to a two-year probation.
Probation is usually given to offenders below the age of 21 and does not result in a criminal record.
By reoffending within the two years of his probation, Kwok had breached conditions, for which he may be sentenced for his past offences.
DPP Thaker said the prosecution intended to seek reformative training for Kwok. Reformative training is a more serious sentencing option for offenders under the age of 21, and results in a criminal record.
Kwok turns 21 on 22 January, beyond the age range for the rehabilitative sentences.
District Judge Eddy Tham noted that the chance for probation had been wasted on Kwok.
His lawyer, Kevin Liew, asked for sentencing to be adjourned while pending a psychiatric report. The report was delayed due to Kwok’s long history of an unspecified condition.
Kwok will return to court on 10 February for sentencing.
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