Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three jailed for OCBC housing loan scam

Straits Times: Thu, Dec 15
BANKING executive Winnie Goh Li Ching was jailed for five years yesterday for cheating her employer in a multi-million-dollar housing loan scam.


Her two accomplices were handed the same sentence after the court heard that the trio used forged documents to trick OCBC Bank into giving out mortgages to people too poor to qualify.


Their scam involved gathering a pool of potential buyers who were offered money in return for allowing their names to be used in the forged documents. Once the properties were bought, the trio could hold on to them for up to two years before selling them for a profit.


Goh, 34, pleaded guilty last week to 33 charges. The court heard she plotted to get 179 mortgage loans approved, totalling $62.8 million.


It earned the business support manager $44,633 in commission and $11,258 in estate agents' referral fees.


Goh admitted getting some of her contacts to forge the application papers. She paid them a few hundred dollars for each document, using part of the money she received from the agents.


Her accomplices were Lau Thuan Heng and his lover Siti Rahayu Masud.


The couple, who pleaded guilty to six charges each, were involved in 14 property deals involving loans totalling $11.1 million.


Freelance estate agent Lau, 63, and Siti Rahayu, 38, earned a total of $1.2 million from the scam, which took place between 2005 and 2007. They caused the bank $170,398 in losses.


The court heard that 84 borrowers were unable to pay the loans back, and 36 ended up having their properties repossessed.


Lau also tried to cheat the authorities out of about $150,000 in a separate scam.


Deputy Public Prosecutor Serene Chew said that he was made bankrupt in June 2006, and the money in his accounts was transferred into the Official Assignee's bankruptcy estate.


He and his lover wanted the funds, so they devised a fraudulent plan to get their hands on them. The couple told the Official Assignee that around $150,000 in two accounts belonged to Siti Rahayu's younger brother Mohamad Ridhwan.


This led the Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office to make two payments of $149,990 and $5,374 from the bankruptcy estate to Mr Ridhwan. In fact, the money in the accounts was the proceeds of property sales made by Lau.


He, Goh and Siti Rahayu could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined on each charge.


Goh's lawyer, Mr Chen Chee Yen, filed a notice of appeal against the sentence.


In a separate case, a businessman was also jailed for five years for cheating OCBC.


Tan Thiam Wee was the director of software company Idealsoft, which had a factoring agreement with the bank. This meant that if it had given a customer an invoice which had not yet been paid, the company could ask OCBC to advance 85 per cent of the value.


The 38-year-old decided to cheat the bank by forging 176 invoices. As a result, $2.6 million was credited to his company's account between 2007 and 2008.


OCBC is still owed $634,075 of this money. Tan, who is now bankrupt, had his sentence deferred until Jan 11 to allow him to settle personal matters.


He could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each of the 12 charges he pleaded guilty to.


Another 164 similar charges were taken into consideration.


ELENA CHONG


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

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