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5 months’ jail for executive who quit job, then lied he had been retrenched to get Covid-19 financial aid

SINGAPORE — Despite resigning from his job for personal reasons, a former business development executive lied that he had been retrenched when applying for the Government’s Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) in April and received S$500.

Chow Jia Chuan was sentenced to five months' jail for claiming Covid-19 financial aid using a forged letter stating that he had been retrenched.

Chow Jia Chuan was sentenced to five months' jail for claiming Covid-19 financial aid using a forged letter stating that he had been retrenched.

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  • Chow Jia Chuan received the S$500 Temporary Relief Fund after pretending to be retrenched
  • He then forged a retrenchment letter to apply for the Covid-19 Support Grant
  • His ruse was discovered after a government official called his previous employer

 

SINGAPORE — Despite resigning from his job for personal reasons, a former business development executive lied that he had been retrenched when applying for the Government’s Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) in April and received S$500.

The next month, he applied for the Covid-19 Support Grant (CSG) under the same pretence, this time by forging a retrenchment letter from his supervisor at the restaurant technology firm TabSquare.

Chow Jia Chuan, 29, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov 19) to one charge of cheating and two charges of attempting to cheat the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). He was sentenced to five months’ jail.

An additional two counts of attempted cheating and one count of forgery was considered during sentencing by District Judge John Ng.

Chow, who is unemployed, is the second person to be convicted of cheating or attempting to cheat the Government in order to get the CSG.

In September, 43-year-old Edward Goh was sentenced to three months’ jail for forging retrenchment letters so that his parents could receive the CSG.

The TRF and CSG were financial support schemes announced by the Government in March as part of the Resilience Budget. Both schemes were eligible only to workers who had been retrenched, put on no-pay leave or suffered substantial wage cuts due to Covid-19.

The court heard that Chow had tendered his resignation at TabSquare on April 8, citing a dislike for the job and personal issues he had with a colleague as his reasons for quitting. His last day of work was on April 24.

On April 20, while he was still employed by TabSquare, he applied for the TRF online, dishonestly declaring that he had lost his job “due to Covid-19”, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jeremy Bin said.

But as the Government sought to urgently dispense the financial aid to those in need, the TRF application did not require supporting documents and Chow was granted the S$500 payout based on his declaration, he added.

He repeated his offence the next month, on May 5, when he applied for the CSG, again declaring that he had been retrenched.

Unlike the TRF, the CSG required supporting documents, which Chow did not provide.

When contacted by an MSF officer about this, Chow forged a retrenchment letter from TabSquare’s human resources business partner Siddharth Narayanan and sent it to the officer, DPP Bin said.

The officer then contacted Mr Siddharth, who confirmed that the letter was forged.

After the officer rejected Chow’s CSG application, Chow applied again, on May 21, with the same forged retrenchment letter.

About a week later, the MSF officer reported Chow to the police.

Chow has since refunded the TRF grant of S$500 to the authorities.

DPP Bin urged the court to send a clear message to the public that any attempt to cheat the Government will be met with severe punishment.

“Such a message is needed to deter irresponsible persons who are prepared to place their interest before those more vulnerable than themselves,” he added.

Ms Nicole Huang, Chow’s lawyer, said he is remorseful for his crimes. Pointing to his clean criminal record, she said Chow’s actions were a “lapse of judgement” that were out of character.

She added that Chow, who lives with his parents, is searching for a job and has taken steps towards working in real estate.

The two lawyers, however, disagreed over whether Chow had committed his offences due to financial stress.

Ms Huang said Chow was worried about job market challenges due to Covid-19 while DPP Bin rebutted that Chow had earlier admitted that his household was not facing financial difficulties.

Chow will begin his sentence on Nov 30 and is out on S$15,000 bail.

For cheating or attempting to cheat the Government for financial aid, Chow could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Related topics

Temporary Relief Fund Support Grant Covid-19 coronavirus

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