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Malaysia-born con artist goes on ‘one-woman crime spree’ in US, stealing identities and fortunes

Cheah Siew Im was sentenced to 51 months in prison for identity theft on October 4. Photo: Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

The Washington Redskins player and his agent met Cindy Lin in 2015 at a suburban Porsche showroom in the US.

She told them she was only in her 30s but was wealthy, well-connected and ready to buy a majority stake in the city’s NBA team. According to a letter the agent wrote to the court, they eventually invested in what they thought was a bid for the Washington Wizards.

After a time the two became suspicious. There were inconsistencies in her stories, the agent wrote. They wondered about her parade of sports cars and even her age. They asked for their money back; to date, they have not received it, the agent wrote.

Neither have most other victims of the woman, whose real name is Cheah Siew Im.

She does not use guns, knives, or any other sort of physical weapon … Language and emotion are her weapons.Alan Perez, chef

Over the past two decades, prosecutors say the Malaysia-born con artist, now 59, has stolen at least six identities and several fortunes. From Virginia to California she would take on the personas of her roommates and manicurists, then use those identities to profit from a series of


One federal prosecutor described her in court as “a one-woman crime spree”. Another, in a sentencing motion, said she “has perfected the art of identity theft”.

She convinced professional athletes and successful executives she was the granddaughter of Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and a close friend of former US president, Barack Obama. The money they gave her for supposed investments in Nigerian oil and Washington sports teams they now believe she spent on high-end cars, plastic surgery and designer handbags.

“Had we known she was not being honest about her real identity, age and criminal background, we never would have trusted her,” the sports agent wrote in a letter to the court. She “is very manipulative and has shown no remorse for the heartaches she has caused”.

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My view: It is clear that criminals use psychological influences to encourage innocent savers to part with their money. The best thing to do is to avoid smooth talkers/con artists that promise to turn your £100,000 investment into £1million within a month.

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