Singapore Charges American Over Alleged Phone Scam

SINGAPORE-- An American who already may be caned for overstaying his visa in Singapore was charged with fraud Friday for allegedly scamming an Australian man out of thousands of dollars.

Prosecutors alleged Friday that calls made from Kamari Charlton's mobile phone in March deceived Mirko Prskalo into sending 17,145 Australian dollars ($16,853) in four payments. Prskalo was told that his nephew and family in Singapore urgently needed the money, court documents showed.

Police said they are also investigating Charlton for money laundering.

The 37-year-old Charlton was a reserve tight end and special teams player for Florida State University in the mid-1990s. He was arrested Sept. 1 when he attempted to leave the city-state 169 days after his 90-day social visit pass expired.

Staying in Singapore more than 90 days after the end of a visa is punishable with a maximum jail term of six months and at least three cane strokes. Cheating is punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine.

If found guilty of the visa charge, Charlton would be the first American citizen caned in Singapore since 1994, when then-teenager Michael Fay was punished for vandalism.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that Charlton's case was being closely monitored by the U.S. Embassy, which was providing consular assistance.

Charlton changed lawyers Friday, dropping M. Ravi and hiring Hamidul Haq of Rajah & Tann. Haq declined to comment about whether his client planned to fight the charges.

Ravi had said Thursday that Charlton was in Singapore to accompany his wife who received medical care for pregnancy complications.

Police said Friday they were tipped off by criminal complaints made against Charlton through Interpol, the Lyon, France-based international police agency.

Charlton, who was born in the Bahamas, played in 11 games as a senior at Florida State in 1996. He was suspended by FSU in 1994 when he was charged with battery and sexual battery, and was later reinstated on the team when he was acquitted of all charges.

Haq said Charlton was previously offered bail but declined to pay it and will likely be detained at least until a pre-trail conference on Oct. 29.