Probation for full-time NSman who cheated MSF of COVID-19 funds

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
Judge with gavel writing on paper
Judge with gavel writing on paper. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A full-time national serviceman (NSF) not only cheated the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) of COVID-19 funds, he also used the details of his father and two friends to similarly cheat the ministry.

Yee Jia Hao, 20, was sentenced to 18 months’ probation on Tuesday (19 January), for defrauding the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF), announced by the Singapore government as part of the Resilience Budget to mitigate the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yee used the funds to gamble.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating earlier, with another six charges, including cheating and remote gambling, taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Between 1 and 30 April last year, the MSF and People’s Association accepted applications for the TRF scheme, which was for Singaporeans or permanent residents who had lost at least 30 per cent of their personal income due to the pandemic, amongst other criteria. Eligible applicants would receive an immediate payout of $500, regardless of the income lost.

On 17 April last year, Yee, who enlisted in the army two months prior, had accessed the scheme’s application portal using his Singpass credentials. He dishonestly declared that he had lost at least 30 per cent of his income due to COVID-19. In fact, his personal income had increased, as he had been unemployed before COVID-19 and was a full-time NSF afterwards.

He lied that his income before COVID-19 was $960 and that his income – after allegedly being impacted by COVID-19 – was $672, which is exactly 30 per cent less.

Deceived by his application, the MSF disbursed $500 to him three days later.

Used father’s details

A day after he received the ill-gotten money, Yee used his father’s Singpass credentials to apply for the grant. He did not tell his father what the exact details were.

He then made the same application for his father, stating that his father’s salary had decreased from $2,700 to $1,890, which was exactly 30 per cent less. In fact, his father’s income had remained the same.

Instead of using his father’s bank account however, Yee used his own PayNow bank account details to receive the monies and received $500 the next day.

On 23 April 2020, Yee sent a message to a 21-year-old fellow NSF, asking him to provide his Singpass credentials. Yee claimed that he would help his friend apply for a Skillsfuture course. Yee felt that this friend was an easy target to cheat.

When the friend asked if Yee was going to do anything illegal, Yee reassured him four times that he was not. The friend gave him the details.

That day, Yee again made a fraudulent application using the friend’s credentials. In fact, the friend’s income had not been affected. Yee again used his own PayNow bank account to receive the money, which was paid out on 24 April 2020.

Together with another friend, Henry Loh Shi Xian, 19, who was also trying to make sham TRF applications, Yee made another false application on 29 April. Yee knew that Loh had not been successful in cheating MSF and offered to help him.

Loh, also an NSF, agreed and passed Yee his details. However, Yee stated his own bank account in the application. This time, MSF detected that the application was fraudulent and denied it. This did not deter Yee, who again made another application using Loh’s details.

He has not made any restitution of the monies he illegally gained.

As part of his probation requirements, Yee will have to attend a gambling relapse prevention programme.

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