A man who, along with his wife, swindled 74 homeowners and subcontractors out of more than $1.6 million by running a renovation firm which failed to honour contracts was sentenced to 5½ years' jail on Monday (May 27).
Aszrul Mohd Yusoff, 39, pleaded guilty earlier this month to 18 cheating charges involving nearly $652,000. Another 115 counts of cheating linked to the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.
His 41-year-old wife Husniyati Omar – who masterminded the scam – was jailed for seven years and nine months last September after pleading guilty to 20 cheating charges and one count of criminal breach of trust. Her offences involved nearly $1.8 million in all.
Before sentencing, District Judge Edgar Foo said the case involved a large sum of money and many victims. He also noted that Aszrul had made no restitution.
Husniyati asked a friend to set up Carpentry Design Works in early 2016, knowing that contracts in such businesses often required substantial upfront payments.
She then asked Ms Christina Wong Hoi Khay, 24, to be its sole director and shareholder, as the couple were undischarged bankrupts. However, the firm and its bank accounts were managed by the couple at all times.
Aszrul was the firm's project director while his wife was in charge of sales and securing new customers. In April 2016, they opened an office and showroom in Telok Kurau Road and another in Yishun Industrial Street 1.
A Facebook page for Carpentry was also set up and the couple enticed homeowners into hiring them – although they had no intention of honouring the agreements they made.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Goh said: "Only partial works such as hacking, carpentry works and installation of air-conditioning units were carried out… When the victims grew anxious, as their intended deadline for the completion of the renovation works loomed, they would contact the accused, who reassured the victims that the renovation works would be completed after further payments were made."
The victims, caught in a bind, frequently made additional payments. However, the renovation works set out in their agreements were still not carried out, said the DPP.
The couple also cheated their subcontractors and did not pay for their services. The offences came to light when a subcontractor alerted the police in April 2017.
Defence lawyer R. Dilip Kumar had earlier told Judge Foo that the couple have seven children aged between three and 20.
With both parents behind bars, the court heard that the four youngest children are now in foster care while their older siblings are living with relatives.
For each count of cheating, Aszrul could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined. Court documents did not state whether action will be taken against Ms Wong.
Written by Shaffiq Alkhatib for The Straits Times.