SINGAPORE: A woman posed as a court secretary while her son pretended to be the Chief Justice or a senior judge in order to cheat an elderly man of S$113,400.
The 71-year-old man struggled to get the money, believing the duo’s lies that he had to fork out the cash for legal expenses or face trouble with the courts.
Devaki Gopal Muthu, 62, was sentenced to 20 months and two weeks’ jail for her crime on Friday (Mar 4). She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to cheat.
Her son had previously been sentenced to 20 months’ jail for his role in the scheme.
The court heard that Devaki got to know the 71-year-old man, an insurance agent, through her then boyfriend. Her boyfriend was the man’s customer and had bought an insurance plan from him.
Devaki and her son, 38-year-old Rajeshvran Veerappan, conspired to cheat the insurance agent from 2016.
From November 2016 to May 2017, mother and son sent text messages to the man and called him to say they needed money to pay for expenses relating to legal proceedings they were involved in.
They promised to pay the money back to him once the legal proceedings were over, although they intended no such thing.
On numerous occasions, Devaki’s son also called the agent pretending to be prominent members of the judiciary, such as Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and then-Principal District Judge Bala Reddy.
He did so in order to induce the man to transfer money to him or his mother. Devaki would also call the man, pretending to be a court secretary named Sara Goh, asking for money transfers.
If the man was reluctant, the duo would tell him that he would get into trouble with the courts.
On 38 occasions over several months, the man transferred a total of S$113,400 into bank accounts belonging to Devaki or her son.
The man, who has not been repaid, borrowed from friends and banks to make the transfers and struggled to make repayments.
As a result, he became devastated and expressed suicidal thoughts, especially when it began affecting his relationships with his family members, the prosecutor said.
His brother now refuses to speak to him and he can no longer visit his aging mother who lives with his brother.
Court documents did not indicate how the offences came to light.
The prosecutor on Friday asked for between 20 and 22 months’ jail for Devaki, saying she had inordinately delayed court proceedings and wasted the court’s time.
A plead guilty hearing was set many times and the case even went to trial at one point, but Devaki claimed to have COVID-19 on the day of the trial.
“I don’t think that is true,” said the prosecutor. “Of course, she recently did catch COVID.”
She stressed that Devaki has caused an inordinate delay by “vacillating” between which position to take regarding her plea.
“Even her son has pleaded guilty, and his sentence served, and I think he’s been charged with new offences,” said the prosecutor.
Defence lawyer Riyach Hussain said 20 months’ jail was “sufficient”. He said his client “fully appreciates what she has done”, and this is her first brush with the law.
She is “anxious and distressed” over the fact that she is facing a prison term, said the lawyer.
He added that this “entire offence started as a result of her son’s manipulation over her to assist him in procuring the monies through deception”.
He said the son was the mastermind while Devaki “merely followed instructions”.
In response, the prosecutor said the claim that Devaki’s son was the mastermind was not borne out by the statement of facts.
Even if this was so, Devaki went along with it and contributed to it.
“Obviously she couldn’t pretend to be Chief Justice Menon and District Judge Bala Reddy because she’s a lady, but she pretended to be a court officer. Her culpability is not less than the co-accused,” said the prosecutor.
The judge agreed that there was some degree of inordinate delay on Devaki’s part. He allowed her a deferment to settle some housing matters.
With material from Channel News Asia Read More