Ex-research fellow jailed 20 weeks for cheating NUS of S$39,000 by submitting fake expense claims
SINGAPORE — A 42-year-old former research fellow from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was jailed for 20 weeks on Monday (July 25) for submitting fake or inflated claims to the school that amounted to about S$39,500.
Thomas Teh Kok Hiong, who worked at the university’s department of biomedical engineering, also submitted claims for expenses incurred by his family members. He altered receipts and invoices to make his expense reports seem more legitimate.
The Singaporean pleaded guilty in June to seven charges of forgery and cheating NUS. Eighteen other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
He began serving his sentence immediately.
The court earlier heard that Teh took advantage of an electronic system that employees used to submit their claims.
He cheated the university of S$39,452 by submitting 22 fake expense reports between October 2010 and September 2018.
The standard protocol was for someone to go through claims that are submitted to verify them and ensure that they complied with NUS’ regulations, had proper supporting documents attached and that there was enough money to reimburse the claimant.
Another person approving the claim would then perform a second round of checks before the claim was handed over to the finance office for reimbursement.
These people who examined and processed the claim did not conduct physical checks to verify if the goods had been delivered.
Deputy Public Prosecutor V Jesudevan told the court they trusted that the claims and supporting documents were genuine and relied on them to process the claim.
Investigations revealed that Teh submitted expense reports with false or inflated claims to NUS, as well as claims for expenses he did not incur.
He lied that he was buying items for projects when they were for his personal use or fictitious in nature.
These items included a S$203 screw set, a S$337 drill bit set and a S$1,668 medical forceps and drill bit set. He also made claims for diamond saw blades worth S$480, absorbent pads and disinfectants worth S$304, and a rotary manual polisher worth S$545.
In October 2017, he paid S$300 to install solar film on his Toyota Estima car. He then edited a blank invoice from the shop that installed it, entering the description “UV protective film” and changing the price to S$4,815 to support his false claim to NUS.
A few months later, he made a claim of S$2,820 purportedly for the purchase of a linear stage, stepper motor and actuator, even though he did not buy such items.
What he did was spend S$1,000 on a labeller and radio for his personal use. He then forged a cash sale document and submitted the claim to NUS.
Court documents did not reveal how his offences were discovered.
For each cheating or forgery offence, Teh could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
In a similar case, a former NUS professor, Tan Kok Kiong, was charged alongside Teh with submitting fraudulent claims amounting to about S$100,000 from 2012 to 2019. His case is pending before the courts.