SINGAPORE — A man who used his parents to cheat the government of COVID-19 support grant funds was jailed for three months on Thursday (17 September).
Edward Goh, 43, would forge documents to apply for the grant for his parents, even though both were not eligible.
Goh pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery for the purpose of cheating.
The COVID-19 support grant was announced as part of the Resilience Budget on 26 March this year to help Singaporeans or permanent residents who were financially affected by the pandemic. These included those who were laid off or terminated after 23 January.
As part of the application, eligible applicants had to submit documents, including letters proving their retrenchment or termination, and their payslips showing their last-drawn monthly salary. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) would disburse funds to eligible applicants.
Successful applicants received three consecutive monthly payments based on the applicant’s last-drawn monthly income – subject to a cap of $800 a month for those who have lost their jobs.
Goh’s mother, 67-year-old Tan Meng Lan, was employed by Scotts Hwa Heng Beef Noodles as a kitchen staff at Ion Orchard Food Opera before the stall ceased operations on 6 April due to the partial lockdown imposed from 7 April.
On 4 May, the owner of the stall told Tan that she would be retrenched. Tan still received her full salary and CPF contributions for the month of May. She was only given a retrenchment letter around 3 June.
On 5 May, Goh learned that his mother had been retrenched and decided to help her make an application for the support grant. At the time, his mother did not have a retrenchment letter yet.
Goh then decided to forge a retrenchment letter to deceive the MSF into thinking Tan qualified for the grant. Using Tan’s employment letter, Goh digitally cropped her employer’s signature and pasted the image onto a retrenchment letter he had typed out.
He then submitted the forged retrenchment letter, which indicated that Tan lost her job on 7 April and had a last-drawn a salary of $1,907. In truth, Tan lost her job on 4 May and her last drawn salary was $1,757.50.
On 14 May, Goh also attempted to forge a retrenchment memo for his father, 68-year-old Goh Keng Thow, even though the elder Goh had resigned from his job.
The senior Goh, a cook at a noodle stall, did not enjoy working at his workplace and indicated he wanted to resign. His last day of work was on 9 March.
His son then forged a memo purportedly by his father’s employer, indicating that the elder Goh was no longer employed by the company. The younger Goh created a sham document and submitted it, stating that his father had lost his job on 10 March.
The elder Goh received the first pay-out of $800 before MSF was able to determine that the retrenchment letter was fake and suspended further payment. The father restituted the full $800 on 22 July.
MSF officers processing Tan’s application determined that the letter was fake and did not pay out the sum to Tan.
On 27 May, an officer lodged a police report stating that Tan had made an application using a sham letter.
Submitting for the sentence that was imposed, Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Lim and Jeremy Bin said that Goh’s offences were sophisticated and premeditated.
“The accused sought to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government’s response to the pandemic, to financially benefit his parents,” said the prosecution.
“The CSG payouts are not ‘free money’ to be taken at one’s whim and fancy; it is a specific scheme to help those truly in need to tide over the short-term financial impact of losing jobs or income as a direct result of the pandemic,” they added.
For forgery for the purpose of cheating, Goh could have been that jailed up to 10 years, and fined.
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