Probation not recommended for first youth to plead guilty to role in $12.8m OCBC phishing scams, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Probation not recommended for first youth to plead guilty to role in $12.8m OCBC phishing scams

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A youth who pleaded guilty to his role in the $12.8 million OCBC phishing scams was assessed to be unsuitable for a probation sentence.

A district court heard on Wednesday (June 1) that Leong Jun Xian, 21, should instead undergo reformative training.

Offenders given reformative training will be detained and made to follow a strict regimen that can include foot drills and counselling.

Leong was one of seven youths charged in February over their alleged involvement in the scams.

He had pleaded guilty on April 20 to two counts each of dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct and rioting.

He also admitted to a charge under the Organised Crime Act. Another 10 charges will be considered during sentencing.

The seven youths include Brayden Cheng Ming Yan, 19, Jovan Soh Jun Yan, 20, Muhammad Khairuddin Eskandariah, 20, and Lim Kai Ze, 21.

The two others cannot be named as they were below 18 when they allegedly committed some offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Lee Wei Liang did not disclose the reasons behind the recommendations that Leong be sent for reformative training.

But DPP Lee told District Judge Kessler Soh on Wednesday that according to a probation report prepared after Leong's conviction, the youth had contradicted certain points which he admitted to when he pleaded guilty.

Among other things, Leong's probation report stated that he was unaware that his offences were linked to international syndicates.

The youth had, however, admitted in court in April that he believed these persons were based overseas.

Defence lawyer Audrey Koo told the court on Wednesday that she needed some time to discuss the matter with her client.

Leong is now expected to be sentenced on June 30.

Between Dec 8 last year and Jan 19 this year, the police received 768 reports from OCBC bank account holders who had fallen prey to phishing scams perpetrated by unknown scammers.

The victims reported that their bank accounts had been compromised and funds were transferred out without authorisation. The court heard that they suffered losses of about $12.8 million in all.

Court documents showed that Leong and other youths, including Lim, Soh, Khairuddin and Cheng, had worked together as a group to provide money laundering services to various unknown persons believed to be linked to overseas syndicates.

These youths allegedly sourced for and provided control of bank accounts to these unknown persons.

Some of these bank accounts were later used to receive and dissipate funds from the OCBC scam victims.

Other accounts were used to receive and dissipate funds from victims of separate scams.

The syndicates are said to have instructed the youths to withdraw cash from automated teller machines, communicating with them through three different chat groups on messaging platform Telegram.

The chat groups are known as K2, G5 and one identified by an emoji of a Singapore flag.

The youths worked with "William" - also known as "Huang Fei Hong"- in K2, "Huang Da Ge" in G5, and "Terry" in the Singapore flag group, the court heard.

The youths allegedly used a fourth Telegram chat group, called "Mobile Legends", to communicate among themselves.

Leong was a member of all four chat groups. He also had his own agents working under him to source for bank accounts, which would be provided to the syndicates.

William had promised him a salary of $3,000 a month, with an additional $600 to $800 per bank account provided.

The DPPs said that from December last year to February, the youths allegedly provided at least 16 bank accounts to the syndicates in the Telegram chat groups, with Leong providing 12 of them.

These 16 bank accounts were then used to receive nearly $600,000 from victims of various scams.

The prosecutors said: "The accused admitted to knowing that the funds entering the accounts which he provided to the syndicates were 'not clean', and had reason to believe that William, Huang Fei Hong, Huang Da Ge and Terry were persons engaged in criminal conduct."

They added that from November last year to February this year, Leong was a member of a locally linked organised crime group.

The other youths were said to be members of the group as well.

Leong had also admitted in April that he was a secret society member who was involved in two rioting incidents - at Oriental Plaza mall in New Bridge Road on Nov 20, 2020, and at the void deck of Block 422 Bedok North Road on Jan 10 last year.

For each count of dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.

For rioting, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and caned for each charge.