Teacher found guilty of printing and using counterfeit notes to pay a sex worker in Singapore

Asia Pacific Regional Correspondent

A man has been sentenced to 3 years in prison after a Singaporean court found that he paid a migrant sex worker using counterfeit notes that he made himself at home. In October 2017, Daniel Wong was convicted on two charges of counterfeiting and using the home-printed S$100 counterfeit notes. He was handed a 3-year sentence, though each charge was punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.

During sentencing, the Prosecutor noted how Wong had specifically chosen a place where it was known migrant sex workers could be found. He pointed out that the decision to target this area could be seen as a way of finding the ‘perfect victim’ - by maximising his chances of finding someone with “little or no knowledge of what a genuine $100 Singapore currency note would look like, especially if they are new to Singapore."

In 2015, when Wong committed the crimes, he was still working as a high school Maths teacher. He told the court how he photocopied and produced two copies of S$100 notes using his home printer. He printed the notes, which shared the same serial number, on A4 standard paper and then stuck aluminium foil to the notes - closely mimicking security features of Singaporean currency.

Around a week later he used the notes, which he claimed to be a mistake, to pay a woman he picked up following his wife’s birthday celebrations. After meeting a Vietnamese woman at Orchard Tower and negotiating rates and services, Wong accompanied her to a nearby hotel. According to her testimony a massage service was given, and hotel records show they stayed in the room for around an hour. While they were still in Wong’s car, he held the two fake notes up and showed them to the massage service provider, before placing the notes directly inside her handbag.

Testifying in court, Wong tried to use his job as a high school Maths Teacher as an excuse for the counterfeit notes. He spoke of making the two notes at home as an “experiment to use [...] as a teaching tool, to excite and engage the students during my maths class because I believe many of them have not seen a $100 note before."

As the 8 day trial drew to a close in October 2017, the evidence raised more and more suspicion about Wong’s claims. He was found to have not informed anyone from his Maths department of his plans to use the $100 notes in class, leading the judge to conclude his excuses appeared more like “an afterthought or as embellishment”. Wong was also noted to be “hesitant and evasive” when building his case.

When questioned, Wong claimed he chose to copy the $100 (the highest denomination) because of the image of uniformed youth groups on the note. He said that the image was relevant due to SG50 celebrations (marking the 50th anniversary of Singaporean independence), and he hoped to “infuse national education” in his students.

But the notes never made it to the classroom, and, according to the story Wong told the judge, it was only after he had parted ways with the worker that he realised his mistake. He testified that he immediately drove out to Kim Yam Road to look for the woman but was unable to locate or call her.

When the counterfeit money was used in a supermarket a few days later, a cashier noticed and alerted police. This led to the arrest of Mr Wong a few weeks later, in August 2015, and the suspension of Mr Wong’s teaching career in December 2015 as he awaited trial.

Wong tried to argue the use of the counterfeit notes was not an intentional act. He said that students would know the notes were fake due to the normal paper he printed them on. His lawyer argued that the notes were “such bad specimens” they should be considered “not genuine” rather than “counterfeit”. Ultimately the District Judge found him guilty of counterfeit notes - as counterfeit includes an intent to practise deception.

Speaking about the ruling, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education (MOE) said: “MOE takes a serious view of educator misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline.”

At the conclusion of the trial, Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu called the former teacher’s defence “an incredible tale”.