Mobile Air scam leader jailed for 33 months

Infamous Mobile Air phone fraudster Jover Chew has been jailed for 33 months and fined $2000.

Chew was sentenced in court on Monday after earlier pleading guilty to 12 charges of cheating 26 customers of more than $16,500 over a 10 month period last year

He had expected a term of 24 to 36 months, with the prosecutor earlier seeking the higher term and his defence counsel arguing for a shorter sentence.

District Judge Siva Shanmugam described Chew’s scheme to cheat unsuspecting customers – usually tourists and overseas foreign workers with limited command of English or knowledge of local consumer laws – as “audacious” and “elaborate”. The judge said the scams were clearly premeditated “to the extent of anticipating potential disputes and possible civil and criminal sanctions”.

He had ignored approaches from police called by distressed customers, and correspondence from the Consumers Association of Singapore and the Small Claims Tribunal.

Judge Shanmugam said Chew’s behaviour had brought about negative publicity towards Singapore’s reputation as a retail destination internationally.

“Reputation is hard to build, easy to destroy and even more difficult to restore,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Eunice Lim had told an earlier hearing.

Chew was the owner of the now defunct Mobile Air phone store in Sim Lim Square whose theft from customers received widespread international publicity after a Vietnamese man he tried to steal from broke down in tears begging for a refund.

The victim in that incident (which Chew did not face charges over) was Pham Van Thoai whose monthly salary as a factory worker was just S$200. He had paid Mobile Air $950 for an iPhone 6, but was told he could only take the phone if he paid another $1500 for an additional warranty. Four of Chew’s staff involved in scamming customers had already been jailed for between four and 14 months.

Last month, the court heard that Chew was undergoing treatment for depression, was in the midst of divorce proceedings filed by his wife, servicing “massive debts” accumulated by his brother and taking care of his parents.

“He has lost everything in life and is looking forward to starting a new life after serving his sentence,” his lawyer Matthew Kurian said, calling for a maximum term of 24 months.

In the end, the judge gave him an extra nine months to contemplate the effects of his wrongdoings.

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