- Toh Hock Thiam has been found guilty of masterminding a ‘fake chips’ scam
- The crime, which saw fake chips worth $1,000 swapped for cash cost casino $1.29m
Toh Hock Thiam, 55, has been convicted of conspiracy to exchange fake chips for cash at Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore. He has been sentenced to just over seven years behind bars.
On June 7, after a fortnight of trials, Toh was convicted of 13 counts of conspiracy, after his criminal activity at Marina Bay Sands casino was found to have been responsible for the casino losing a staggering $1.29 million. The hefty misdeed is reported to be one of, if not the largest scam of its kind in Singapore’s history.
Racking up the charges
But that wasn’t all for Thiam, who’s being reported as something of a criminal mastermind. In fact, a mammoth 162 other charges were considered in his trial, most of which were under the Casino Control Act.
Between the evening of November 22, 2015 and the early hours of the next morning, it is thought that almost 1,300 fake casino chips worth $1,000 each were swapped for money at Marina Sands Bay casino.
The offending chips, as well as cash and a number of mobile phones, were seized during the early rounds of investigation.
A slight discoloration on the chips
Asoka Markandu, the deputy public prosecutor for the case, says that the fake chips were so high in value that their counterfeit nature went unnoticed until a member of casino staff spotted a “slight discoloration” on the surface of one of them.
However, it was revealed that Toh alone was not the sole offender in this somewhat bizarre case; investigations undertaken by Singapore police have revealed that a syndicate was responsible, and that Toh was simply the mastermind behind the scam.
He presented the counterfeit chips to co-accused Chia Wei Tien who then went on, under Toh’s instruction, to hire runners.
According to Markandu, “These runners were directed by Chia, based on instructions given by Toh, on how to go about carrying out the exchange of these counterfeit chips at MBS [Marina Bay Sands] without raising alarm of being detected by MBS cashiers.”
Sixteen runners later, and with the help of Seow Piak Long (a friend of Toh), around 420 chips were circulated and exchanged for cash. That equates to approximately $420,000 being traced back to Toh.
Chia has been sentenced to five years in prison, while Seow was given one year behind bars.
Markanu urged the prosecuting court to sentence Toh to not less than seven and a half years, since he was the main culprit behind the crime and used Chia and Seow as pawns in his counterfeit game – which cost Marina Sands Bay “unquantifiable losses.”
After the crime Toh clearly had no intention of being caught in the act; he illegally crossed the Malaysian border after having withdrawn all the money in his account. For this reason, the court agreed that his actions were premeditated.
Not the first, nor the last
Somewhat concerningly for casino operators everywhere, Toh’s is not an isolated case. Countless cases of fake chip scams have dominated the industry’s news scene over recent years.
One such case came to light in 2010, when four people became runners for a transnational syndicate to exchange 48 fake chips, again worth $1,000 each, into real ones of less value before swapping them for cash.
And in 2011, another transnational syndicate was responsible for staking wagers using around 287 $1,000 counterfeit chips, using the real ones they won to convert into money.
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