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NSF admits to cheating Govt of S$2,500 over fraudulent Covid-19 grant applications

SINGAPORE — Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Yee Jia Hao stated in his application for Covid-19 financial grants that he had lost at least 30 per cent of his personal income due to the pandemic, even though he had really been unemployed before enlisting in National Service.

Yee Jia Hao is seen arriving at the State Courts on Dec 8, 2020.

Yee Jia Hao is seen arriving at the State Courts on Dec 8, 2020.

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  • Five of Yee Jia Hao’s applications were approved before he was caught
  • He offered to help his friend, who had failed in submitting fraudulent applications, but pocketed the money himself
  • Yee also used his father’s and another friend’s SingPass credentials to commit his crimes
  • A judge called for reports to assess if he is suitable for probation or reformative training.

 

SINGAPORE — Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Yee Jia Hao stated in his application for Covid-19 financial grants that he had lost at least 30 per cent of his personal income due to the pandemic, even though he had really been unemployed before enlisting in National Service.

Yee also got his father’s and a friend’s credentials for their SingPass accounts, assuring the friend many times that he would not use them for illegal purposes. SingPass is the national passcode system for e-government services and transactions.

However, Yee ended up using their information to falsely declare that they had similarly lost part of their income due to Covid-19.

After the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) accepted Yee’s applications and disbursed a total of S$2,500 to him, he used the money to gamble.

The 20-year-old pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating on Tuesday (Dec 8). Another five charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing next week.

District Judge Seah Chi-Ling called for reports to assess his suitability for probation or reformative training.

Reformative training — a regimented rehabilitation programme for offenders under the age of 21 who commit relatively serious crimes — is a harsher punishment than probation, which allows young offenders to continue with their education or employment while serving their sentences.

THE SCHEME

Yee had abused the applications for the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF), which was a financial support scheme set up by the Government in March to help Singaporeans who had been financially affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

The fund is administered by MSF and the People’s Association and applications were open in April. 

Those eligible for the fund must have been retrenched or suffered at least 30 per cent loss of personal income due to the pandemic after Jan 23. They must also be Singapore citizens or permanent residents aged 16 or above, among other criteria.

Once applications are submitted, the system will automatically determine the applicant’s eligibility based on the information provided.

Those who succeed receive an immediate payout of S$500, regardless of how much income they had lost.

HELPED FRIEND WHO WAS TRYING TO APPLY

Yee submitted eight fraudulent TRF claims over two weeks in April. Five of these were approved and he received the money in his bank account.

When he succeeded with his own SingPass credentials, he told his father to provide his so that he could help the older man to apply for “government grants”. He did not elaborate further.

Yee’s father was employed at the time and his salary had not been affected by the crisis.

In the application, Yee provided his own bank account details for e-payment tool PayNow so that he would get the money.

Shortly afterwards, Yee sent his friend a WhatsApp text message, asking the friend to share his SingPass credentials, ostensibly so that Yee could help him apply for a SkillsFuture course. 

When the friend asked if his credentials would be used for illegal purposes, Yee reassured him four times that they would not.

However, Yee went back on his word and submitted another TRF application, providing his own PayNow details again.

Separately, Yee was aware that another friend — Henry Loh Shi Xian, 19 — was also trying to make fraudulent applications, but was unsuccessful.

Both young men were from the same Basic Military Training platoon.

Yee used Loh’s SingPass credentials to submit a fraudulent application for him, but Yee provided his own PayNow details again.

This time, MSF denied the application.

Yee has not made any restitution so far.

NOT ‘FREE MONEY’

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jeremy Bin told the court that the prosecution will reserve its position on Yee's sentence pending the suitability reports for probation or reformative training.

While rehabilitation remains the primary sentencing consideration as Yee was young at the time, the prosecutor noted that he had deliberately sought to exploit the pandemic and the Government’s response to it for financial gain.

DPP Bin added: “The Temporary Relief Fund is not ‘free money’ to be taken at one’s whim and fancy.

“It is therefore necessary for the court to send a clear message to the public that any attempts to cheat the Government, and to unduly enrich themselves at the expense of those who are truly entitled to the grant, will be met with severe punishment.”

Adult offenders convicted of cheating can be jailed up to 10 years and fined.

Related topics

NSF court crime cheating grant Temporary Relief Fund

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