SINGAPORE: Falsely believing he owes the Singapore government over $400,000, 70-year-old Tan Soy Kiang spent the last 15 years struggling hard to work on 2 jobs, living as frugally as possible, and borrowing money from neighbors and an elder sister to get by.
It was only just recently that it was discovered he DOES NOT OWE ANY DEBT! It was all just part of an elaborate scam perpetuated by two Singaporean women who knew he was a simple-minded man.
Fifteen years ago, these two women approached Tan, telling him he owes the government a huge sum of money which he should pay off immediately if he does not want to go to prison. Afraid of the consequences if he does not pay up, Tan pleaded for consideration because he does not have that large sum of money.
So, the two women told him he could pay the government, through them of course, every payday. But he should make sure not to fail any payment else he be thrown to jail.
Tan was forced to take on two jobs so he could quickly pay off the debt. Every morning, he works as a street cleaner, earning $1000, and earns another $1000 as pump attendant from 4 PM to 10:30 PM.
Every payday, one or both of the women would come and collect his “payment”. Almost every single penny of his pay went to the repayment of the “debt” he does not really owe.
Living alone and too busy with his two jobs to have time for hanging out with friends, Tan struggled to pay off the debt and no one ever noticed that something was wrong. Some of his co-workers at the gas station have seen him meet up with the ladies every pay day but did not think something was not right and they did not bother ask.
Despite having paid off a huge chunk of the “debt”, the salary from the two jobs was still not enough, so he had to hand over his retirement savings amounting to $53,000.
It was only when niece arrived from Australia that the scam was uncovered. Pamela Lim was in Australia for 15 years. When she went back to Singapore, she was shocked at her uncle’s very poor and pitiful living condition, especially after learning he has to work two jobs.
She would not accept his explanations about having debts from a failed business. She pressed on until the old man finally admitted about paying the “debt” to these two women. For some time now, he realized he might have been conned but had no way out. He does not know who to tell and what he should do.
Lim set up a meeting with the two women who allegedly confessed about their actions. Because the women had also used up the money from her uncle, they settled the case amicably by allowing the women to pay $500 a month [as opposed to her uncle’s $2,000 monthly payment!].
When they went to the police to report the incident, they were told that Tan was a willing party. Lim decided to pursue the matter in court. If they win the case, the women could face up to 10 years in jail and will be ordered to pay a fine.