Jail for ‘deity’ who cheated followers of S$7 million, forced them to eat faeces and


SINGAPORE: A woman who brainwashed her “spiritual” followers into believing she was a deity and subjected them to cruel punishments for disobedience, including being forced to eat faeces and having their teeth pulled out, was sentenced to jail on Wednesday (Jun 19).

Woo May Hoe, a 54-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to five charges including cheating and causing grievous hurt, with another 45 charges taken into consideration.

Over about eight years from 2012, Woo led of a group of about 30 followers who believed in Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma, a spiritual leader in India.

Woo convinced her followers during their regular and lengthy spiritual sessions that she was a deity who could communicate with gods and spirits, dictating that they call her “lord”.

Many of her followers sought healing for themselves or their relatives and therefore fervently followed Woo’s teachings, the court heard.

Woo taught her followers that they had to clear their “bad karma” and increase their “good karma” to improve their health and taught them to do so by making payments to Amma in India.

She convinced her followers to declare how much money they had, warning that they would be punished by the gods if they lied, before persuading them to hand over the money to her.

She claimed that she would collate the money and transfer it to India, where it would be used for things like buying cows or building temples and schools in the country.

Woo also ordered her followers to buy houses, condominiums and cars as “a form of worship”, which she used for herself. 

In total, she cheated her followers of S$7 million (US$5.2 million) between 2012 and 2020 directly. She cheated them into taking out another S$6.6 million in loans from financial institutions. She has since made restitution of S$675,000.

PUNISHMENTS

Woo controlled her followers, directing a third of them to move in with her and serve her on a full-time basis by buying her groceries, cooking for her, cleaning her house and driving her around.

Some of them were ordered to quit their jobs, while all of them had to report their daily activities and communications to her.

If the followers did not obey Woo completely, she would impose various violent and degrading punishments on them.

These included hitting them with bundles of canes or paintbrushes, stabbing them with scissors, using pliers to pull out their teeth, forcing them to consume human faeces and making them jump from the second floor of a building.

The punishments, which were exacted by Woo herself or carried out by instructed followers, resulted in permanent injuries for some followers. These included the loss of several teeth and an eye injury from being caned.

If a follower tried to exit the group, Woo would harass them with a barrage of calls and threaten their downfall. The fearful follower would then return to the group and face severe punishment.

It was only in mid-2020 when a few followers lodged police reports against her, saying they had been extensively abused physically, lost their life savings to her and taken extensive bank loans they could not repay.

Woo was arrested in October 2020. She was escorted to court from her place of remand on Wednesday in a white shirt and blue mask, with short hair.

One of her family members or friends who attended the court hearing remarked that she had lost weight.

Some of Woo’s victims also attended the hearing, but declined comment when approached by CNA after her sentencing.

She was assessed by the Institute of Mental Health and found to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of her offences, which had a contributory link to the offences.

However, she was found to be cognisant of the illegality of all her acts.

Her acts of cheating were found to be deliberate and within her control.

The prosecution had sought nine to 12 years’ jail for Woo, saying she instituted “a reign of terror” over her followers and abused their “exceptional faith and trust” in her to “bleed them dry of their life savings”.

She also manipulated them into selling their properties, terminating their insurance policies and taking up extensive loans they could not afford.

Defence lawyer Caryn Lee from IRB Law sought 69 months’ jail instead, pointing to how her client’s mental condition had interfered with her thinking, emotions and behaviour.

Deputy Principal District Judge Ong Chin Rhu pointed to the harm Woo caused to her followers and the “stranglehold” she had over their finances. She said there would have been “substantially higher uplifts” for the starting sentences for the causing hurt charges if not for Woo’s mental illness.



This article was originally published by a www.channelnewsasia.com . Read the Original article here. .