SINGAPORE — A 20-year-old, who helped launder proceeds from Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) phishing scams, pleaded guilty in a district court on Wednesday (20 April).
Leong Jun Xian, 20, who committed the offences in exchange for a monthly ‘salary’ of $3,000, was the first of seven youths aged 19 to 22 charged in February, to admit to charges including money laundering. The phishing scams resulted in a loss of around $12.8 million to OCBC account holders.
Leong, who is awaiting enlistment into national service, was ordered to undergo assessments for probation and reformative training and is expected to be sentenced in June.
Of the five charges he pleaded guilty to, two were related to money laundering while a third was for being a member of an organised criminal group. The remaining two charges are for unrelated rioting incidents.
Between 8 December last year and 19 January this year, the police received 768 reports from OCBC bank account holders who had fallen victim to phishing scams. These scams involved perpetrators impersonating OCBC bank to send SMS text messages to victims informing them of fake banking-related issues.
The messages contained links to a fake OCBC bank login page where victims would key in their electronic banking login credential and one-time passwords. The scammers would then steal the credentials and gain control of the accounts by altering the credentials.
Scammers would then transfer the funds from the account to local and overseas bank accounts. The combined loss of monies was estimated to be around $12.8 million, according to court documents.
Leong’s role was to source for bank accounts on Telegram and provide the details to syndicates which were believed to be behind the OCBC phishing scams and other scams. These bank accounts would be used to receive or dissipate funds from scam victims. Leong was also instructed by syndicates to withdraw cash from ATMs.
He communicated with syndicates via three Telegram chat groups and had at least six “co-workers” or similar ages. He liaised with syndicate representatives who used monikers such as “Huang Fei Hong” and “Huang Da Ge”.
Leong was promised $3,000 a month and an additional $600 to $800 per bank account provided.
Between December last year and February this year, Leong and his co-accused provided at least 16 bank accounts to the syndicates, with Leong himself providing 12 of these.
In total, the 16 bank accounts received $599,407 from scam victims.
Apart from providing bank accounts, Leong and his co-workers were given bank account details to test the accounts. He also instructed others to withdraw scam proceeds via ATMs. On 28 December last year for example, Leong instructed the sole female co-worker of his group to withdraw $81,800 that could be traced to two victims of OCBC phishing scams.
OCBC on 30 January said it had completed making arrangements for "goodwill payouts" of $13.7 million to 790 customers who lost money in phishing scams.
Singapore's government also had major retail banks register their alphanumeric identifications onto the new SMS sender ID protection registry so that legitimate businesses will be more easily recognised by customers.
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