Singapore, August 10
A 55-year-old Indian woman in Singapore was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison on Tuesday for hijacking around SGD 35,000 from customers who paid her for tours to India and Dubai that never materialized, according to a press article.
S Leelavadi, who worked as a freelance travel agent for more than a decade without the license required to do so, cheated at least eight victims on 19 fake trips to India and the city of Dubai, TODAY newspaper reported. .
The Singaporean pleaded guilty earlier this year to one charge of breach of trust and two counts of operating as an unlicensed travel agent for the Singapore Tourism Board.
Seven other similar charges were considered in sentencing.
Leelavadi will not start serving her sentence immediately as she intends to appeal, according to the report.
The court heard that she started working as a freelance travel agent in 2000, stopping only a few months in 2004 when she joined a licensed travel agency.
When she went out on her own, she told clients she could book tours for them in India and Dubai. She advised them on how to get there, where to stay and their route, and gave them a quote for the desired tour.
They would then pay her a deposit of SGD 500 which she said was needed to make the corresponding reservations. She ordered them to make payments in cash or by wire transfer to her mother’s bank account.
In the months leading up to the departure date, she would hunt them for the balance payments while sending them itineraries and advising them on various aspects of their trips, such as insurance, currency exchange and local tours, according to the report. .
Whenever the departure date approached or passed and the trips did not materialize, she would lie to clients that her mother was hospitalized or in intensive care, so they could postpone the trip or accept a refund.
When customers urged her to have plane tickets so that they could leave on their own, she would tell them that she could not provide them.
She ended up pocketing 34,950 SGD out of eight victims between 2013 and 2017.
One of those victims was 82-year-old Muniyandi Karuppayee, to whom Leelavadi offered to arrange a visit to Kasi for SGD 2,400 in 2017.
On the scheduled date of the trip, Karuppayee packed her bags and waited for Leelavadi to drive her to the airport. Leelavadi did not show up and did not answer calls from the store owner.
Two days later, she called and claimed that her mother had been hospitalized. She could not prove any evidence that she even booked plane tickets for the trip.
That same year, Leelavadi also offered to organize a seven-day visit to Dubai for eight people. The group paid him a total of SGD 15,450.
The day before the trip, she asked them to postpone it, claiming her mother had suffered a heart attack that morning. She separately told one of them that the trip had to be canceled as she was due to attend a court hearing soon.
By the middle of last year, Leelavadi had fully reimbursed his victims.
For criminal breach of trust, she could have been jailed for up to seven years or fined, or both.
For working as an unlicensed travel agent, she could have been jailed for up to two years or fined up to SGD 10,000, or both. PTI