Runaway bride's cheating heart
JB woman, 25, uses sex, lies, pregnancy to swindle six lovers of $200,000. -TNP
By Maureen Koh
BEAUTY, they say, lies in the eye of the beholder.
In the case of Michelle Lee Pei Yin, 25, and the six men in her life, it could be the painful truth.
By no means does she have the looks or the body of a beauty queen. Yet she has managed to charm six men into marrying her.
What's her secret? The men give various answers.
What they do know for sure now is her motive - money. They and their relatives claim to have been swindled out of a total of RM470,000 ($200,000).
She was released on bail after being detained by Malaysian police for 10 days. It is not known where she is now.
The Johor Baru woman's sensational exploits have all the makings of a Hong Kong drama serial, with its many riveting twists.
At 17, pregnant with her first child, she married her boyfriend - the only marriage that she legally registered - in 2002.
By last month, more details surfaced, showing that Lee had allegedly conned five other men into going through the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.
Each time, she'd use the same ruse: Have sex with the men, claim she was pregnant, then disappear with money she had swindled from them, their relatives and friends.
She had six children, four with her first man and two with the next one. All the children live with their fathers.
Following the expose in newspapers and this month's Feminine magazine in Malaysia, at least two more men have stepped forward to claim that they, too, had fallen prey to her.
At a press conference last month, her most recent husband, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chung, told reporters that "it was love at first sight" for him.
When asked if Lee was that special, the technician, 25, said: "If five other men before me got conned too, what do you think?"
In a telephone interview, his sister told The New Paper on Sunday: "How can we really blame our brother when even my parents and I were charmed by her sweet and docile nature?"
Ms Christina Chung, 28, added: "She got on well with the family, took care of all the household chores and even prepared our meals. This despite the fact that she had to leave the home early in the morning to manage her beauty salon business."
It was Ms Chung who blew Lee's cover after creditors turned up at the family's home to demand payment in July.
She said: "We were shocked to learn that she had used my brother's name to get money from our relatives and friends under the pretext of helping them to invest in various business schemes.
"It was then that all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place."
Like how none of Lee's relatives were present during the wedding ceremony.
"She told us that she was an orphan, that her father died two years ago, and her only kin - an uncle - had just died from cancer," recalled Ms Chung.
"She also claimed that her father had left behind a hefty inheritance and that she wanted to keep away from her friends because they either owed her money or were after her inheritance."
Ms Chung's brother got to know Lee in March when he got a request to add her as a friend on Facebook.
She asked him out on a date the next day and followed him home, giving the excuse that she wanted to use his computer to surf the Internet.
They ended up having sex and, shortly after, Lee moved in with Mr Chung. A month later, she told him she was pregnant.
Ms Chung said: "All of us, including my brother, were quite taken aback by how 'sudden' it was."
Despite their doubts, Mr Chung's parents felt he should marry Lee.
This, even though she could not produce any proof that she was pregnant.
Ms Chung: "She'd arrange for her pre-natal check-ups on days that my brother had to work.
"Then one day, she came back with an ultrasound scan of what she claimed was the foetus."
In May, the couple went through a Chinese customary wedding, complete with a banquet, in Sabah.
Lee had asked to postpone registering the marriage till August 8, claiming she had to sort out a family problem. It was also an auspicious date, she had said.
But during this time, they claimed, Lee had conned a few of Mr Chung's friends and relatives into investing RM300,000 in a get-rich quick scheme.
Mr Chung is said to have emptied his savings account of RM15,000 to please his wife. One friend lost RM20,000.
Ms Chung said she, too, was a victim.
"Michelle invited me to invest in her beauty salon business. I ended up losing nearly RM30,000."
When confronted, the family says that Lee confessed to everything but pleaded for time to work so she could repay the debts.
Ms Chung said: "But she just could not say where the money went. Our family discussed it and felt that we should leave it to the law."
On August 6, they filed a report with the Kuala Lumpur police. A police spokesman told The New Paper on Sunday that "investigations are still ongoing".
Ms Chung said: "The whole episode has traumatised my brother so much that he has gone into hiding to avoid the shame."
Hubby #1: 'I don't know what really went wrong'
THE serial bride first hit the headlines in July last year.
A man - believed to be the fifth victim - had filed a police report accusing Michelle Lee Pei Yin of theft and of conning him into marriage.
But as his story was published only in a magazine in Mentakab, a small town in Pahang state, few people paid attention.
It didn't help too that Lee had assumed several other names: Lee Kai Xin, Lee Pei Ying and Celine Lee.
In a telephone interview, her first and only legally registered husband told The New Paper on Sunday: "She was my first love. But our relationship died a long time ago.
"She was the one who initiated the divorce. What else can I say?" Mark (not his real name) lives in Tangkak, Johor, which is also Lee's hometown. At his request, we are not using his real name.
He was only 19 when he fell in love with Lee, who was then 17.
He got to know her through her cousin. When she became pregnant, they decided to marry.
Mark said: "If you ask me, I don't know what really went wrong."
Mark's father told Feminine magazine that he and his wife doted on Lee at first.
This was because of her pitiful background - Lee was raised by her paternal grandfather.
Mark's father said: "We treated her like our own (daughter). She was also very respectful and filial to us."
But six months after Lee married his son, she started to show her true colours.
He said: "She told us she wanted to do some business and asked my daughter to join the venture.
"But somehow, nothing materialised after we passed her the money."
Mark's father also claimed that Lee stole their jewellery and sold it.
He conceded she had never been caught red-handed, but said: "She's usually the only one at home, who else can it be?"
Lee also got into frequent fights with Mark after their eldest daughter, now eight, was born. They have two sons, seven and six, and another daughter, five.
Mark's father said: "Later, we even found out that she took money from our relatives and friends. She claimed that my son was in financial difficulties after his (fashion) business partners cheated him."
Lee also allegedly borrowed money from loan sharks.
Mark's father said: "I was furious when they came knocking on our door and I wanted to report to the police, but my wife stopped me."
He added: "She had nursed the hope that Lee would repent and the family could reunite, but I can tell you, I'd never allow it for the peace of everyone."
Lee walked out of the marriage and left home when her youngest daughter was only six months old.
She'd return occasionally to visit the children and take them out.
Mark said: "She never asked for their custody or that I pay her alimony."
It was only in October last year that Lee finally signed the divorce papers.
Mark's father said: "I suspect she did that only because she wanted to marry (the fifth husband)."
MICHELLE Lee met her second husband, Jerry (left), then 19 and two years younger that her, through a social column in 2006.
From his home in Setapak, Selangor, the technician told The New Paper on Sunday in a telephone interview that "she seemed very shy, like someone with little sexual experience".
Said Jerry (not his real name): "She'd insist that we turn off the lights each time we had sex."
They had dated for only two months when she announced she was pregnant, in early 2007.
They held a customary wedding ceremony. Jerry said they did not register the marriage as he felt "we were both too young".
They have two sons, aged 3 and 2. He said: "I never treated her badly even when she disappeared for a while and returned to say she was pregnant with our second child.
"I accepted it even though I suspected he was not mine."
Jerry explained that Lee had given the excuse of going to Johor to do business and seldom came home.
What led him to throw his wife out of his home was not her suspected infidelity.
He said: "It was having to deal with the creditors who came to our home, hounding us for payment.
"She even stole my mother's jewellery pieces and sold them off, but claimed she'd kept them in a safe deposit box in the bank."
He lost his Rolex watch and RM15,000 in investments, while his family and friends lost a total of RM100,000.
Jerry added: "I was so fed up that I chased her out of the home (in 2008) and changed my mobile phone number. We never heard from her again."
Until the recent reports.
He now has only one question: What does she do with the money?
Jerry said: "She does not party. She does not even dress up or hanker after branded stuff."
But he hopes to put everything behind him and focus on his two sons.
"They are everything I have now," he said.
Granddad says of love cheat: 'Face of an angel, soul of the devil'
DIG deeper into Michelle Lee Pei Yin's background and a sad story unfolds.
Her parents' marriage was beset with frequent fights and disagreements.
Her mother had wanted to abort her, but it was too late and too risky when a doctor was consulted. Lee was their only child.
Left with no choice, Lee's mother carried her to full-term, then walked out of the hospital after delivering her in 1985.
Her paternal grandfather, Mr Lee Ye Xiang, 76, told The New Paper on Sunday: "My son didn't want to bother but she is after all, our flesh and blood.
"I couldn't just ignore her existence."
Mr Lee sighed repeatedly during our interview and punctuated his replies with pregnant pauses.
He wondered aloud whether he had done the right thing by bringing her home to live with him.
In a weary tone, he said: "I think I did it all wrong, don't you agree? But really, it's too late for regrets."
His son, said Mr Lee, remarried and it was left to "this old man to raise the girl".
The younger Mr Lee died in a road accident three years ago.
Mr Lee's love for his grand-daughter was met with her recalcitrant behaviour.
"I'm resigned to fate," he said.
"I no longer acknowledge her as my grand-daughter."
To publicly disown a grandchild one has raised is not easy, but Mr Lee said: "What else can I do?
"She has sullied the family name. Whatever problems she had, however much she needed the money, for whatever reasons, she should not have resorted to conning people."
Mr Lee has 10 children and Lee is the only child of his third son. When her father died, she went from "bad to worse".
Said Mr Lee: "Do I still have the responsibility to take care of Pei Yin? I don't know, you tell me.
"My grand-daughter has the face of an angel but the soul of the devil."
He described Lee as "a very obedient child, warm and soft-spoken - someone you'd take to instantly".
Mr Lee said: "Who'd have thought she'd turn into this woman who is so adept at spinning lie after lie?"
The first sign of trouble came not long after she married her first husband.
Mr Lee said: "At first, I was apprehensive about agreeing to her marriage because she was still so young.
"But I thought she had found her happiness, so I gave my blessings."
When Lee returned home one day to say she wanted to file for a divorce, Mr Lee thought the couple merely had a tiff.
"It was only when her father-in-law approached me that I found out she had cheated them of their money.
"My grand-daughter begged for my forgiveness and I told her I could not do anything unless her in-laws agreed to let the matter rest."
They did - because of their grandchildren. Mr Lee said: "They just told her to get a job and work to pay off the money."
The next thing he knew, she had "vanished".
He said: "We didn't keep in touch and I have not seen my great-grandchildren. I only found out about her misdeeds from the newspaper reports."
Mr Lee added that he did not even know Lee had remarried the first time, much less the next four.
But he is adamant about keeping her away from his life now.
"I won't help her. I don't want to know anything about her," he said.
"Whether she is alive or dead, it's not my problem any more."
She cheats them, then jilts them
MR Wu, who lives in Johor Baru, also fell for Lee's charms.
The warehouse supervisor got to know Lee when she was working in Times Square in 2008.
She moved in with him and, shortly after, claimed she was pregnant.
In May that year, they held a customary wedding and threw a wedding banquet.
Lee put off registering the marriage by claiming she wanted her ill grandfather to recover so he could be a witness.
Mr Wu ended the relationship soon after that when he realised Lee was not pregnant.
He also found out that a colleague of his had given her several thousand dollars for a get-rich quick scheme.
In late June 2008, Lee got to know a Mr Liang and moved into his home in Kulai, Johor Baru.
She borrowed money from him, claiming she wanted to help a relative. When valuables went missing and his brother found out that a credit card was misused, Lee said she was pregnant.
She left after they took wedding photos. The damage: more than RM30,000.
In May last year, Lee met Mr He Wei Xian, who was working in a pub in Kuala Lumpur.
She had changed her name to Lee Kai Xin.
Mr He took Lee home when she claimed she was pregnant.
His mother, 60, told The New Paper on Sunday: "I suspected something was amiss but since she said she was pregnant, I accepted it."
Lee made her move on Mr He's elder brother by borrowing RM2,000, promising that he'd make a profit of RM3,000.
When he didn't get the money back, he tried to warn his mother.
But she said: "The Kai Xin that I'd come to know was such a sweet girl, who'd always be the one to pay for things. She was also very filial to me and took care of the home."
Mr He and Lee went through the traditional customary rites in late June.
Confident that she had won over her mother-in-law's trust, Lee then asked her to invest RM10,000 in a boutique.
Lee claimed that she was waiting to receive the money from her late father's account.
When the promise was not kept, Mr He and his mother confronted Lee, who admitted that she had lied to them.
Mr He's mother said: "She begged us to forgive her but I refused. I also got my son to send her to the hospital, where it was confirmed that she had been lying about her pregnancy."
They claimed that Lee had also kept the hongbao from the wedding, Mr He's family lost more than RM17,000.
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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