Today’s fraud is a little sad. People have lots of motivations for committing fraud. Common ones include simple greed, a desire for nice things, consumer debt, gambling debt/losses, investment losses, living beyond one’s means, and feelings of being unappreciated/underpaid. We’ve seen plenty of these motivations this year.
The story of Manjit Singh is different. Singh, 60, fell victim to a romance fraud. She stole from her employer to give money to a boyfriend, Ravi Jani, who didn’t exist.
In 2019 Singh went to work for Lei Dat and Baig Solicitors. By 2019 she was trusted enough to work on cases. assist with accounting, transfer funds within the company, and pay third parties.
In 2021 the law firm’s owner, Naeem Baig, checked the bank balance expecting to find about £800k. Instead, the balance was closer to £40k. He looked through the bank transactions and found repeated transfers to a Patricia Flannery. They totaled £958,180.
Ms Singh initially claimed the transfers had been properly made by the firm. Then she changed her story and claimed it was a mistake and sent a picture of a check (or cheque, it is the UK after all) for £945k. The next day, Ms. Singh claimed the money should have come from her personal account and she would pay it back from £2 million she had in a Malaysian bank account. She then put Ravi Jani on the phone with Mr. Baig. Jani promised the money would be back that day.
It must have been an interesting conversation because Baig immediately called the police.
Singh met Jani via an online dating service. Jani claimed he lived in Dubai. He told her she was beautiful. Singh was especially vulnerable. She allegedly has long-standing mental health issues and her husband left her for another woman in 2019, while Singh was battling cancer. Ouch.
Jani clearly manipulated Singh. It started with a request for a small amount and grew from there into a staggering sum of money. The court seemed sympathetic as well noting:
“The amount stolen by you is, in truth, quite staggering. Not only were you a fraudster, you were also the victim of a fraud that has rightly been called a romance fraud.
“You did not receive one penny for that which you did dishonestly. At the time, it is quite apparent you had been exploited.”
The individual posing as Ravi Jani has not been caught. Funds sent were immediately moved and have proven difficult to trace. Ms. Singh received a sentence of 2 years in jail for her crimes.
Good internal controls help prevent scenarios like this. Effective segregation of duties would likely have prevented this or at least mitigated the damage.