Gambling debt settlement plan goes awry for young Singapore man

Posted: April 7, 2022, 8:48 a.m.

Last update: April 7, 2022, 8:48 a.m.

A young man from Singapore accumulated a significant amount of gambling debt and needed a way out. He thought he found it in a fake watch scam, but ended up ahead with a court date and a criminal record.

Terry Tong Hong Zhi
Terry Tong Hong Zhi is appearing in a Singapore court for attempted robbery and bodily harm. He tried to rob a man to pay off a large gambling debt, but was unsuccessful. (Picture: asia one)

Knowing when to say when to play is just as important as in life. If you don’t succeed, it’s time to change tactics. Some people, however, have a hard time grasping the concept.

A man from Singapore found himself in this situation, apparently a very unsuccessful player. He repeatedly racked up more debt and, desperate to cover his losses, hatched a “foolproof” plan to scoop up some quick cash. It didn’t work out as he expected and the police caught up to him, but not before he left a permanently disfigured man.

It’s a question of time

Terry Tong Hong Zhi, 20, needed money. He owed 40,000 Singapore dollars (US$29,388) in loans he took out gambling – and losing – online. Desperate, he thought he had found a perfect way to access money without having to rob a bank.

Last year, Tong decided he could raise money by posing as a seller of high-end watches, according to a Singaporean outlet. Today. He created ads on Caroussel, a local online marketplace for luxury watches, but the ads were all fake.

For his age, Tong was surprisingly thorough. He researched different watch models to find the best options, used an image of a Chinese man in his profile, and researched asking prices from other sellers before launching his program. He also used an untraceable phone with an unregistered SIM card.

The first attempts did not work. Choosing a location in a gated community, he thought, would lend some credibility to the sales, but he had no success at first. Either the unsuspecting victim would come with a friend, or they thought the residence at the scene was the point of redemption and contacted the owner.

Then Tong finally found his mark. With a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A watch and a much lower price than the others, he was ready to strike a deal. The victim fell for the price of 115,000 Singapore dollars (84,502 US dollars) and agreed to meet. On WatchCentre, an online watch store, this Patek Philippe model sells for around US$209,534.

When the two arrived at the meeting point, Tong pulled out a penknife and threatened his victim. The man fought back and screamed for help before Tong stabbed him in the face with the knife. The would-be criminal escaped, but did not collect the money.

The life of crime is coming to an end

As he fled, Tong took off his clothes so they couldn’t be evidence if the police caught him. He planned his escape route to avoid surveillance cameras and made sure to ditch the SIM card and perform a factory reset on the phone.

But it was for nothing. The police caught up with Tong two days later and he admitted his crimes. It was July last year and today he appeared before a judge to find out his fate.

The judge could have given between five and 20 years behind bars, as well as 12 strokes of the cane. However, he received “reform training” instead. For 12 months, he will follow what the Singapore Legal Advice website describes as a “comprehensive rehabilitation program in a closed and structured environment at a reformation training center”.

Tong had no luck playing crime, but eventually found some luck in court. The reforming training order was a result of his age, as it is often the punishment for those under 21. He will be 21 next week.

As for Tong’s victim, he spent two days in the hospital. He will probably think twice in the future about offers that sound too good to be true.

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