Judge suggests top-level liaison with authorities in Kuala Lumpur
A man with 78 cloned or forged credit cards was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment last week after pleading guilty to three counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception to a total of US$2,576.18.
Malaysian national Kok Keat Lee, 30, entered his pleas on Thurdsay. Defense attorney John Furniss asked for full credit for the early admissions of guilt, noting that the offenses occurred between April 18 and April 25. He also pointed out that the total amount obtained was very small compared to what had been obtained or attempted in three other recent cases of credit card fraud.
But Justice Charles Quin said 78 false credit cards was shocking and it was only a matter of luck that they did not get used. The other three defendants also pleaded guilty and received 16 months.
The background to the charges was set out by Mr. Furniss and Crown Counsel Toyin Salako, who explained that Lee had used fraudulent credit cards to obtain lodging from one hotel and snorkel gear from a dive shop. On April 25, he presented credit cards to a staff member at Treasure Island Resort. The first four cards did not work, but the fifth one did.
However, the woman dealing with the transaction was suspicious and she told her manager, who called police.
Officers attended and spoke with Lee. A search of his room ensued and the credit cards were found.
Justice Quin praised the staff member for her quick thinking: “She saved other businesses from this callous scam,” he said.
Mr. Furniss told the court that Lee became involved in the scam because he was trying to pay back a loan. He had saved his money for seven years to open a coffee shop. Unfortunately, the area in which he opened the shop was under the control of an Indian gang that demanded protection payment on a weekly basis.
When Lee refused to pay, gang members came into his shop and caused trouble, keeping business away. He ended up getting a loan that linked him to a man whose name was called by other Malaysian defendants. The pressure used to keep Lee in line was his family’s safety. The only way Lee could repay the loan was to use the false credit cards and bring back high-priced goods, Mr. Furniss said. He told the court that Lee initially went to authorities in Malaysia, but they were unhelpful.
Justice Quin asked if the problem had occurred in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.
Told yes, the judge noted that he had been there a number of times. He called it a very sophisticated jurisdiction, with a police force and a financial crime unit.
He said Lee should tell police about the man who got him involved with the credit cards “and anybody else who is organizing this and tell them if they come to Cayman, they will go to prison.”
Lee told the court “they” had forced him to do what he did and “they” had hung a dead dog in front of his house. Now his father was in the hospital and he was worried, he said. Lee then sat down in the dock and put his head in his hands.
Justice Quin said Lee knew the hotels and store were going to be victims of crime, but he went ahead anyway.
The judge suggested that something might be done at a higher level – maybe the director of public prosecutions or the commissioner of police here speaking to their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur.
Something needed to be done because the scams here were so similar and the people behind them needed to be brought to justice, he commented, adding that Malaysia has quite a strict legal system.