Remittance teller used customers' data to redeem 40 to 50 masks for himself

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
Reusable masks available for collection from vending machines at community centres. (PHOTO: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook)
Reusable masks available for collection from vending machines at community centres. (PHOTO: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — A teller at a remittance business used customers’ identification numbers to redeem 40 to 50 mask kits from vending machines provided by Temasek Foundation. 

Yu Rowell Ko retained the foreign identification numbers (FINs) of about 60 to 70 customers who used Metrobank Remittance’s services. He disposed all the mask kits after seeing news of other persons who were caught for redeeming face masks that did not belong to them.

Yu, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of cheating on Wednesday (12 January), with one count of illegally obtaining personal information considered for his sentencing.

From 30 November to 13 December 2020, Temasek Foundation ran a nationwide mask distribution campaign, offering a free mask kit to all Singapore residents who have an NRIC, birth certificate, FIN card, or any government-issued ID with a barcode.

Each mask kit contained two black reusable masks and three reusable filters and was valued at $12. The mask kits were dispensed at 1,200 vending machines islandwide.

Yu, then a teller at Metrobank Remittance, handled identity cards of customers who wanted to remit money.

Around 30 November 2020, Yu collected his mask kit from a vending machine and realised that he liked the masks, according to prosecution.

Yu wanted more masks but knew that each person could only obtain one. He decided to use his customers’ FINs to redeem more mask kits.

From 1 to 9 December 2020, while at work, Yu would secretly copy the FINs of his customers on pieces of paper. He also accessed his firm’s internal system and keyed in random alphabets into the search field. He would then click on random names to assess the FINs.

Yu retained about 60 to 70 FINs and ended up visiting a vending machine on seven occasions to redeem 40 to 50 mask kits.

On 4 December 2020, a Filipina domestic helper lodged a police report stating that she had gone to Tampines West Community Centre to redeem her face mask from the vending machine. However, she was informed that her face masks had already been collected on 2 December.

Upon investigation, Yu confessed that around 10 or 11 December 2020, he had seen news reports of others being caught for redeeming face masks that did not belong to them. Out of fear, he disposed of most of the masks kits in dustbins around his residence.

Only three sets of unopened mask kits and eight face masks were recovered from him.

Mitigating for himself, Yu said in a document submitted to the court that he felt remorseful for his offence and sought leniency. 

He asked the court to give him a stern warning, a community-based sentence or a higher fine in lieu of possible jail time. In his support, he also submitted documents detailing his volunteer work distributing TraceTogether tokens for People's Association. 

He told District Judge Christopher Goh that his wife found out two days ago that she was pregnant and had been experiencing bleeding. 

DJ Goh replied that the court does not give stern warnings, adding that the offence was not eligible for a community-based sentence, and that it mandated a jail term. 

The judge adjourned sentencing to 18 February. 

For cheating, Yu can be jailed up to 10 years, and fined. 

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