A Malaysian-born woman has been arrested and sentenced to 51 months in prison in the United States for assuming different identities, including being the granddaughter of Singapore’s first prime minister and founding father Lee Kuan Yew.
Siew Im Cheah, 59, faked at least six identities over the past 20 years to steal people’s fortunes, The Washington Post reported.
Cheah was arrested in 2017 after she was caught speeding in a Porsche in southwest Virginia while using an old roommate’s driver’s license.
She pleaded guilty to identity theft and fraud at the Alexandria federal court on Oct. 4, where federal prosecutors called her “a one-woman crime spree.” They also said that she “has perfected the art of identity theft.”
Her victims include a professional athlete, chef, manicurists, and an appointee of a Virginia governor. They would give her money that she said she would invest in companies including Nigerian oil and sports businesses. However, it is believed that she actually used the money for plastic surgery, cars, and luxury fashion goods.
Cheah told a victim she could access government investment funds in Singapore because of her family ties as the late Prime Minister Lee’s supposed granddaughter. To settle doubts, she said she does not appear in Google searches to avoid getting kidnapped.
Another victim said that he visited Cheah once when she was sick and saw that she had flowers supposedly signed by Obama. The victim said Cheah probably sent those to herself.
Cheah also told a Washington Redskins American football player and his agent that her name was Cindy Lin, and that she was in her 30s, when she met them at a Porsche dealership in McLean, Virginia, in 2015.
According to a letter the agent wrote to the court, "Cindy" told them she wanted to buy a majority stake in the NBA team the Washington Wizards, and that they eventually invested with her in what they were told was a bid for the team.
Cheah went as far as faking an identity in court while standing trial for this case. She told the court her name was Sau Hoong Lee and her lawyer said she was 66. However, the prosecutor quickly contested her claims, saying that she was using another stolen identity. Court records show that Cheah entered the US in 2001 on a visitor visa using the name Sau Hoong Lee. The real Sau Hoong lives in Kuala Lumpur and said she has never met Cheah.