Recruiter used foreign workers’ data to redeem enough masks to last 66 years

A mask vending machine placed at a community club. (PHOTO: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook)
A mask vending machine placed at a community club. (PHOTO: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — A recruiter who handled payrolls used the identification numbers of foreign workers to redeem so many masks that she could use them for more than 66 years.

Chua Sah May, 48, was jailed seven months on Monday (17 January) after she pleaded guilty to deceiving Temasek Foundation by using several of its vending machines to dispense 397 mask kits to her, worth a total of $3,176.

On 25 June 2020 and 10 September 2020, Temasek Foundation announced each of its two rounds of distributing “MaskSafe DET30TM” reusable face mask kits. Every Singapore resident was entitled to collect one free Temasek mask kit, which contained two reusable face masks. The foundation dispensed the mask kits via vending machines set up islandwide. Each resident had to key in an NRIC or a Foreign Identification Number (FIN) to redeem the mask kits.

Chua worked as a recruiter who was outsourced to Clariant Singapore and Archroma Singapore to handle the two firms’ payrolls or work pass matters. She would have access to foreign employees’ FINs, which she would store in her hard drive.

In June 2020 and September 2020, during each of Temasek Foundation’s mask distribution rounds, Chua wanted more mask kits for herself. She then decided to use the employees’ FINs to redeem the masks.

She selected the FINs of employees whom she believed had left Singapore or could not enter Singapore due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. She thought they were less likely to redeem their mask kits. She then copied the selected FINs onto a piece of paper, intending to key in the serial numbers to redeem the masks.

On 397 occasions, Chua keyed in the FINs of the employees at the mask vending machines located at Yio Chu Kang Community Club. She received 397 mask kits in total, worth $3,176. Her actions were caught on CCTV cameras.

A Chinese national who worked as a sales manager for Clariant South East lodged a police report on 3 October 2020 after he was unable to redeem his mask kit from a vending machine in Telok Blangah Community Club. The vending machine system stated that he had redeemed the face masks on 27 September 2020.

After her arrest, Chua surrendered to the police a total of 454 Temasek mask kits, which were in her home. Due to hygiene reasons, Temasek Foundation was unable to take the masks. The origin of the remaining 57 masks was unclear.

Seeking seven months’ jail for Chua, Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia said that since each face mask kit contained two face masks which could last up to two months, Chua effectively took masks that could last her more than 66 years.

“Seen in this light, the accused’s offence was thus one of pure greed and disregard for the needs of others in the community,” said Ngia.

Chua’s lawyer Ramesh Tiwary sought six months’ jail, saying that his client had “truly learnt her lesson”, especially after she spent a night in lockup.

For cheating, Chua could have been jailed up to 10 years, and fined.

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