Four former employees of now-defunct Sim Lim square electronics shop Mobile Air pleaded guilty on Thursday (Oct 1) morning and were convicted on 13 counts of cheating.
Koh Guan Seng, 38, Kam Kok Keong, 31, Kelvin Lim Zhi Wei, 32, and Lim Hong Ching, 34, had been employed by Jover Chew Chiew Loon as freelance sales executives in 2013 and 2014.
Chew devised a ‘sales modus operandi’, which he taught to the four men, to cheat unsuspecting customers of Mobile Air. The men would receive a 40% of commission of the profits made from their sales.
Together, the four accomplices cheated customers of almost S$16,000 by unscrupulous sales tactics. For example, Kelvin Lim pressured a customer, a Bangladeshi national working as a construction worker in Singapore, to sign a blank invoice. The foursome would also add additional items to invoices after they had been signed by customers, and refuse to hand over the purchased products until additional payments had been made.
THE ‘SALES MODUS OPERANDI’
Chew controlled the pricing of all mobile devices at Mobile Air, and instructed his salesmen to sell the devices at prices higher than what he would indicate on the packaging.
Chew would indicate this ‘price to beat’ on the packaging of each device by using the letters in the world ‘S-I-N-G-A-P-O-R-E’ to represent the digits ‘1’ to ‘9’, and any other letter to represent zero.
For example, S$1,148 would be represented by the letters ‘SSGR’.
Salesmen who sold the devices at a lesser price than indicated by Chew would be personally liable for the difference.
Mobile Air’s standard practice was to offer customers an attractive price for devices, and collect full payment from customers straight away. However, upon receiving full payment, the customer, instead of receiving the device, would be confronted with various sales tactics.
Salesmen would add additional items to invoices previously signed by customers upon agreement on the initial sale prices. The men would then withhold the devices and demand further payment. This method of collecting payment in two stages, and not stating any additional payment when negotiating the initial prices, was used to cheat at least 25 victims.
‘A BRAZEN CASE OF CHEATING’: DPPs
Deputy Public Prosecutors Eunice Lim, Charis Low and Victoria Ting called this “a brazen case of cheating”, noting that even the involvement of the police and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) did not deter nor limit the four accused’s resolve to cheat customers.
Many of the victims were low-wage workers, with limited understanding of the English language and consumer rights. The salesmen, in several instances, also demanded victims to hand over their ATM cards and threatened to call the victims’ employers and have their work permits revoked.
Kelvin Lim even accompanied a victim to an ATM machine to check his balance, and proceeded to empty the victim’s bank account, leaving him with a balance of just S$7.
The men faced between one and six charges of cheating each, for which they could be punished with up to 10 years’ jail and a fine.
DPPs Lim, Low and Ting are seeking imprisonment terms of between at least five and 16 months’ jail for the quartet.
The men are expected to be sentenced on Oct 14.
Chew’s case is still before the courts. He is facing a total of 28 charges.