CAUGHT in the middle of an alleged money scheme, JJ Poor to Rich (JJPTR) founder Johnson Lee now has his back to the wall.
Social media users have begun vilifying Lee, who was arrested two days ago, calling him a fraud and a con. But many of his detractors have probably never met him.
But for those who knew Lee, he was a “nice guy”, generous and good with numbers.
His secondary school principal Goh Boon Poh remembers Lee as a quiet good-looking teenager, who always wore a smile.
“He was a very polite student, who was always respectful towards his teachers. That’s why he donated money to the school,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Last year, Lee donated RM1 million to his alma mater Heng Ee High School for its Bayan Baru branch’s building fund.
Goh, who was principal from 2004 until his retirement in 2014, said the school never received such a huge amount from a former student before.
“It is common for former students to make donations, but it is rare to receive that kind of amount.
“I asked him what he was doing. He said he had some investments and properties. At the time, I didn’t know he was in this money game business,” he said.
Goh, who is a board member of the school, said out of a student population of more than 3,000, Lee stood out as a student.
“He was exceptionally good in mathematics and additional mathematics. His scores were very high, always close to 100. Overall, his exam results were okay. But he was a wonder with numbers. He stood out that way.”
An advertising agency owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, came to the same conclusion about Lee – a nice guy and a maths genius.
“I’ve seen him do calculations. The man is very smooth with numbers,” he said, adding that he met Lee two years ago when working on an advertising campaign..
“All I can say is I find him a down-to-earth chap. He never showed off. When speaking to people, both young and old, he was polite and sincere.
“He is also very hardworking, a hands-on guy. He deals with people face-to-face,” he said, adding that they spoke as friends despite just being business associates.
He said he regretted the bad press Lee had been facing with his business troubles because he did not think he and JJPTR members were out to do bad things.
“For some investors, JJPTR was a good thing. Like for retirees, the scheme got them an extra few hundred ringgit to help with household expenses. It was not a huge scheme for people to get rich.”
He said Lee and some JJPTR members also did a lot of charity work.
“They gave money to various charities, held blood-donation campaigns. They felt they should help others in need because they had made some money. I have to say that was good of them.”
Lee and two of his aides were picked up by the police in Klang early Tuesday. They were remanded for three days to assist investigations into cheating. The remand ends today.
JJPTR, which started business in May 2015, offered investors a guaranteed 20% monthly return for investments as low as US$25 to a maximum US$1,000.
Things went smoothly for both the company and its 400,000 investors in Malaysia and abroad until late last month when Lee claimed JJPTR’s trading accounts were hacked, causing losses of more than US$400 million (RM1.7 billion).
Investors became worried over the hacking news caused concern among investors and some lodged police reports, which started the police probe into JJPTR for alleged cheating.
Since late last month, JJPTR’s offices have been collecting information from members to speed up a refund exercise. Lee himself had posted several videos on JJPTR’s Facebook page over the last few weeks to reassure investors that he had not run off with their money.
But last Friday, the authorities, including the police and Bank Negara Malaysia, raided eight JJPTR premises in Penang and seized documents, computers and other items. The police also recorded statements from 15 JJPTR employees and four investors.
Since the raids, JJPTR has closed all its offices and has not updated its Facebook page.