Gambling Debts Settlement Goes Awry for Young Singapore Man

Posted on: April 7, 2022, 08:48h. 

Last updated on: April 7, 2022, 09:09h.

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

Terry Tong Hong Zhi
Terry Tong Hong Zhi appears in a Singapore court for attempted theft and causing bodily harm. He tried to rob a man to pay off a substantial gambling debt, but was unsuccessful. (Image: Asia One)

Knowing when to say when in gambling is just as important as it is in life. If you’re not finding success, it’s time to change tactics. Some people, however, have a difficult time grasping the concept.

A Singapore man found himself in that situation. Apparently a highly unsuccessful gambler, he repeatedly accumulated more debt, and out of desperation to cover his losses, hatched a “fool-proof” plan to pick up some fast cash. It didn’t work out as he expected, and police caught up with him, but not before he left a man permanently disfigured.

Just a Matter of Time

Terry Tong Hong Zhi, a 20-year-old, needed cash. He owed S$40,000 (US$29,388) in loans he took out as he gambled – and lost – online. Desperate, he thought he had come up with a perfect way to access cash without having to rob a bank.

Last year, Tong decided he could find some money by posing as a high-end watch seller, according to Singaporean media outlet Today. He created listings on Caroussel, a local online marketplace, offering luxury watches. But the ads were all fake.

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

The first few attempts didn’t work. Choosing a location in a gated community, he thought, would lend a certain amount of credibility to the sales. But he initially had no success. Either the unsuspecting victim would come with a friend, or thought the residence at the location was the point of exchange and contacted the owner.

Then, Tong finally found his mark. With a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A watch and a price much lower than that of others, he was ready to make a deal. The victim fell for the S$115,000 (US$84,502) price and agreed to meet. On WatchCentre, an online watch store, that 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 slashed him on his face with the knife. The would-be criminal made his escape, but didn’t collect the money.

Life of Crime Comes to an End

As he made his getaway, Tong stripped off his clothes so they couldn’t be evidence if the police caught up with him. He planned his escape route in order to avoid surveillance cameras and made sure to ditch the SIM card and perform a factory reset of the phone.

It was all for nothing, though. Police caught up with Tong two days later and he admitted his crimes. That was in July of last year, and today, he appeared before a judge to learn his fate.

The judge could have given him between five and 20 years behind bars, as well as 12 lashes of a cane. However, he received “reformative training,” instead. For 12 months, he will undergo what the website Singapore Legal Advice describes as a “comprehensive rehabilitation program in a closed and structured environment in a Reformative Training Center.”

Tong was unlucky at gambling at crime, but finally found some luck in the court. The reformative training order was the result of his age, as it is often the sentence for those under 21. He turns 21 next week.

As for Tong’s victim, he spent two days in a hospital. He will likely think twice in the future about deals that seem too good to be true.