Man laundered criminal proceeds from sale of S$34,000 Rolex watch using cryptocurrency and is jailed

SINGAPORE: A man was cheated out of S$34,000 by someone posing as an employee of a reputable cryptocurrency company.

The victim had transferred the sum to a bank account, hoping to obtain cryptocurrency in return.

Instead, he never got the cryptocurrency. The S$34,000 was used to purchase a Rolex Daytona watch, and a series of men were involved in covering up the crime by reselling the watch and converting it into cash or cryptocurrency to avoid suspicion.

Elroy Low Zi Quan, 22, agreed to participate in this venture. After getting his hands on S$28,000 of the illegal proceeds, he used S$25,000 to buy cryptocurrency and evade detection. He also spent an additional S$3,000 on his own expenses.

Low was sentenced to 21 weeks in prison on Thursday February 10 for his involvement. He pleaded guilty to one count of converting proceeds of crime, with another charge being considered.

The court heard that an individual known only as K deceived a 31-year-old man by posing as an employee of a well-known cryptocurrency company.

The victim transferred 34,000 Singapore dollars to a bank account in exchange for a cryptocurrency he never received. Instead, K used the cash as payment for a Rolex Daytona watch.

On April 11, 2021, K messaged Low on the Telegram messaging app. He asked Low to collect the watch on his behalf, offering to pay him S$5,000.

Low agreed and contacted another man to retrieve the watch on his behalf. More men were roped in and the watch was collected from a shop in Somerset Road and delivered to Low the same day.

The next day, Low texted K on Telegram and asked how he got the watch. K admitted that he tricked someone into transferring S$34,000 to the watch store’s bank account in exchange for cryptocurrency.

K asked Low to sell the watch, offering him an additional S$5,000 to do so. Tempted by the money offered, Low accepted.

To avoid getting caught, Low got a new number and used it to contact different watch shops, asking how much they would pay for the Rolex Daytona.

He decided to sell it to a store at 1 Maritime Square for S$31,000. He again contacted another man to help him sell the watch. This man asked a second man, who asked a third man to do the deed.

Eventually, the watch was sold at the store for S$31,000. However, Low claims he only received S$28,000, with the remaining S$3,000 having been paid for the help of one of the men.

Low did not deposit the S$28,000 immediately into his bank account, as he knew direct depositing such a large sum of money was easily traceable and could raise suspicion.

Instead, he met an unidentified person later that day and used S$25,000 in cash to buy cryptocurrency from him. Low spent the remaining S$3,000 on personal expenses.

A few days later, Low sold some of the cryptocurrency he had purchased for S$3,500. He transferred 3,000 Singapore dollars to a bank account as instructed by K.

On April 15, 2021, Low sold the remaining cryptocurrency he had purchased for S$21,800. He transferred S$18,000 to various bank accounts as instructed by K and kept the remaining S$4,300.

The prosecutor asked for between six and eight months in prison for Low, saying that money laundering offenses are serious because they allow the proceeds generated by serious crimes to be passed on to perpetrators, thereby facilitating those crimes.

“They are easily committed, for example, simply by asking these offenders to agree to receive funds in their bank accounts and then transfer them to others,” he said.

“However, these simple actions play a crucial role in the criminal enterprise in that they allow the perpetrators of the underlying crimes to hide and ultimately enjoy the fruits of their crimes.”

He noted that the entire sum of S$34,000 had been dissipated, with unknown criminals fleeing with S$21,000 and no restitution was made to the victim.

Low also had a “considerable level of premeditation”, outsourcing the collection and sale of the watch to others and obtaining a new cell phone number.

He also added a layer of protection by first converting S$25,000 into cryptocurrency, knowing that a direct deposit would arouse suspicion.

Low was allowed to begin his prison term on March 7.

Floyd N. Morlan