SINGAPORE – Within four months of his release from prison, a man betrayed his girlfriend and forged cheques under her name to take $154,900 from her bank accounts.
The amount was her life savings that were never returned.
For that, Francis Lim Chee Siong, 44, was on Friday (Oct 15) sentenced to three years and 10 days’ jail after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of forgery.
Twenty-two other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
In 2017, Lim was jailed for 18 months after he forged credit card application forms under his father’s name and incurred losses of about $57,000.
Similarly, he never returned the money.
Investigations showed that Lim stole Ms Priscilia Lim’s cheque books when he stayed over at her residence some time before Aug 26, 2018.
The couple met on a dating app and began a relationship in April 2018. Court documents did not disclose the job details of the couple, nor Ms Lim’s age.
“He had also learnt how to forge her signature by closely studying how the victim signed documents,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim.
Lim managed to forge 25 cheques amounting to $164,900 and withdrew $154,900 from Ms Lim’s bank accounts in this manner over the span of a year.
Ms Lim realised this only one year into their relationship, when she discovered 25 cheque withdrawals made without her knowledge – 17 from her UOB One savings account, two from her UOB CashPlus account and six from her DBS Cashline account.
She checked her other accounts, and found more unauthorised cheque withdrawals – two more from her UOB CashPlus account and six from her DBS Cashline account.
Lim also incurred heavy debt on Ms Lim’s credit card, which he used for his own expenses when they were in a relationship.
He came up with excuses to delay repayment each time she chased him to repay the bills and again resorted to forgery.
On June 13, 2019, Lim used an app called Cheque Writer to forge an image of an HSBC cheque with the amount of $370,000, addressed to Ms Lim, to make her believe repayment was on its way.
He lied again when she asked him about the unauthorised withdrawals from her bank accounts, and assured her that he would ask UOB about them.
But he forged an e-mail sent by “Susan Wee” from UOB, claiming that an investigation was under way.
“These offences not only disarmed the victim and gave her a false sense of assurance, more crucially, the accused was allowed to prolong his offending conduct against the victim,” said DPP Lim, who urged the court to sentence Lim to 42 months and 10 days’ jail.
He cited Lim’s similar offences of forgery, and added that his current offences caused a financial loss triple the amount.
“This time, he did not cause a loss to banks, but directly to his girlfriend, who had her life savings drained by the accused’s offences,” said DPP Lim.
Lim was offered bail of $30,000 on Friday and ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on Nov 12 to begin serving his sentence.
For each count of forging a cheque, Lim could have faced a maximum jail term of 15 years and fined.