SINGAPORE: In the first guilty plea of its kind during the COVID-19 outbreak, a 19-year-old woman on Tuesday (Apr 14) admitted to cheating five people of S$580 for masks she never delivered.
Nur Atiena Mohamed Asidi, 19, said she used most of the cash to buy milk powder, baby food and diapers for her infant, who is now seven months old.
Atiena was unrepresented and appeared in court via video conference from her place of remand.
She teared at points in the hearing as she explained that her family did not want to bail her out and her baby is being cared for by a friend.
The court heard that Atiena cheated five people on Carousell, where she listed surgical face masks for sale in February.
The cheating offences occurred across just two days – on Feb 18 and Feb 19.
She cheated the victims of sums ranging from S$50 to S$250 for 15 to 400 boxes of surgical face masks.
The woman who was cheated of the highest sum of S$250 had seen Atiena’s listing on Carousell on Feb 18.
She contacted Atiena via the online marketplace app and said she wanted to buy 10 cartons containing 400 boxes of surgical face masks for S$6,000.
Atiena lied to the victim that she had an available supply of surgical face masks to meet her order and promised to deliver the 400 boxes by Feb 21.
She then asked the victim to make an upfront deposit of S$250 to a POSB bank account.
Atiena did not have any stock of the masks and was not a supplier of the items, and never intended to deliver them, the court heard.
CASH ROUTED THROUGH ANOTHER SELLER’S ACCOUNT
The victim transferred S$250 to the account provided, after which Atiena could not be contacted.
The account actually belonged to another Carousell seller, whom Atiena had bought a toy from.
She set this up in order to conceal her identity, and later lied to the toy seller that she wanted to pay him cash in person instead, asking him to return the S$250 that had been paid via PayNow.
The toy seller transferred the S$250 to Atiena, but Atiena never met up with him to buy the toy or pay him in cash.
Atiena has paid S$50 back to one of the victims, and said she used S$340 to buy milk powder, baby food and diapers for her child, who was five months old at the time.
She pleaded guilty to two charges of cheating, with another three charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Michelle Tay said she would not be objecting to the calling of a probation suitability report.
She said such cases usually draw mandatory jail terms, but the prosecution has considered Atiena’s youth and the fact that she is a first-time offender.
FAMILY DOES NOT WANT TO BAIL HER OUT
Atiena pleaded for leniency, saying: “I really hope to be given another chance.”
When District Judge Eddy Tham asked her about the balance money owed to the victims, Atiena said she would pay the outstanding sums if allowed to be bailed out.
She has been remanded for a month and 13 days, and her parents are unwilling to bail her out, said the prosecutor.
According to the existing bail conditions, her parents must help to stand bail in order for her to be released from remand.
“The preparation for the (probation) report will take anything between four and six weeks, especially now during this circuit breaker period due to the COVID-19 situation,” said Judge Tham.
“If you are not bailed out, you will end up in remand for a long time, so do you have anyone to bail you out?”
Atiena said the man whose family was taking care of her daughter would be willing to bail her out.
“He is a friend … (his) family they agreed to help me take care of my daughter, since my mom didn’t want to take care of my daughter,” said Atiena, who appeared emotional.
“Where’s the father of your daughter?” asked Judge Tham.
“I’m not sure,” she replied.
She said that she would likely be staying with her friend or with the father of her daughter if she is released.
The judge adjourned sentencing to May 27 and removed the condition for Atiena’s parents to be her bailors, so she can be bailed out.
For each charge of cheating, she can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.