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Man allegedly posed as Lion City Sailors footballer to borrow money

A chance encounter with a “professional footballer” in a bar in Seoul proved to be a costly one for a Singaporean, after he lost more than $1,000 to the alleged scammer.

The alleged victim, who only wanted to be known as James, told The Straits Times that he met the man while on a personal trip to South Korea in mid-April, when the latter approached him at a bar to borrow a lighter.

The man, who said he was Portuguese but has since obtained Malaysian citizenship, allegedly introduced himself as a Lion City Sailors footballer based in Singapore. The privatised club, who are owned by local billionaire Forrest Li, are part of the nine-team Singapore Premier League (SPL).

Calling it a “very believable ruse”, James said: “He told me that he was earning $8,000 a week with the Sailors and he had just transferred there after playing in Portugal and Sweden for some time.

“He also told me that he had once played in England for Mansfield Town (League One side). He showed me a tattoo of the words “En Route Mansfield” on his arm and even showed me photographs of himself and other former footballers together.

“He also told me that he knew the Sultan of Johor personally and attended barbecues with him.

“When I added him on Instagram, his account was at the time verified with a blue tick and all his pictures were of him playing football. He even uploaded a picture of the Sailors badge on his Instagram stories.”

The man eventually told James that he was interested in hiring him as his agent. He also allegedly said that he would be able to introduce the latter to Sea Limited founder Li, and other current and retired professional footballers from the SPL and English Premier League.

Sensing a business opportunity, James kept in touch and they met up a few more times in South Korea and Singapore. James paid for drinks during these meetings and also introduced him to his friends.

While James had declined the man’s first request for a money loan on April 26, he eventually succumbed a day later.

During a drinking session at a bar in Beach Road, the man persuaded James to pay for two bottles of alcohol for him and his friends – he claimed that he was still in the process of opening a bank account and promised to repay the loan of $383.68 by the following Monday.

But that did not happen despite multiple requests. James said: “He bought time by making several excuses but on one occasion, he told me that he was ill and sent me a picture of a thermometer indicating he had a 43.2-degree temperature, which is ridiculous.

“I figured then that he was lying. My friends did a background check as well and I found out that he was never a professional footballer and that he is based in Selangor.

“I was also told that he had played the same trick on other people. When I called him out, he repeated that he was under contract with (the Lion City Sailors) but had since started training with Selangor (a club in the Malaysia Super League).”

James has since lodged a police report, and the police confirmed with ST that investigations are ongoing. Adding that he feels sorry for him, James is encouraging others to do due diligence when doing business with individuals purporting to represent an organisation.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Sailors said they are aware of the matter and confirmed that the individual is not an employee of the club.

This is the first known case of someone impersonating an SPL footballer, although there have been victims here who have been deceived by scammers posing as government officials.

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