Teenager pleads guilty to cheating five people over masks

SINGAPORE (CNA) – In the first guilty plea of its kind during the COVID-19 outbreak, a 19-year-old woman yesterday admitted to cheating five people of SGD580 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 February 18 and February 19.

She cheated the victims of sums ranging from SGD50 to SGD250 for 15 to 400 boxes of surgical face masks. The woman who was cheated of the highest sum of SGD250 had seen Atiena’s listing on Carousell on February 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 SGD6,000.

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 February 21.

She then asked the victim to make an upfront deposit of SGD250 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. The victim transferred SGD250 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 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 SGD250 that had been paid via PayNow.

The toy seller transferred the SGD250 to Atiena, but Atiena never met up with him to buy the toy or pay him in cash. Atiena has paid SGD50 back to one of the victims, and said she used SGD340 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.