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Woman jailed 12 months for cheating MSF into disbursing S$2,900 worth of Covid-19 relief payouts

SINGAPORE — A woman was jailed 12 months on Friday (Jan 14) after she deceived the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) into disbursing a total of S$2,900 worth of Covid-19-related financial aid.

Woman jailed 12 months for cheating MSF into disbursing S$2,900 worth of Covid-19 relief payouts
Zarifah Idris forged documents from Iyad Perdaus Child Development Centre, the Singapore Indian Development Association and a hospital when applying for financial assistance and grants from the Government.
  • Zarifah Idris was convicted of four charges of cheating and a single charge of forgery
  • She was sentenced to 12 months’ jail
  • Zarifah had cheated the Ministry of Social and Family Development of S$2,900 by falsely claiming that she had lost her job due to Covid-19, among other lies

SINGAPORE — A woman was jailed 12 months on Friday (Jan 14) after she deceived the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) into disbursing a total of S$2,900 worth of Covid-19-related financial aid.

Zarifah Idris, 37, pleaded guilty to four charges of cheating and a single charge of forgery.

Eight other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

District Judge Lim Wen Juin, who presided over the hearing, said that he was not ordering Zarifah to repay MSF because he had factored in during sentencing that she had not made any restitution.

Court documents showed that before Zarifah committed the offences, she was employed as a preschool teacher at the Iyad Perdaus Child Development Centre in Chua Chu Kang on Jan 2 last year.

While serving a six-month probationary period at the centre, her performance was assessed to have been unsatisfactory.

Giving an example of her employer's assessment, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Gabriel Choong said that in April that year, Zarifah did not show up for work for 14 days and did not give prior notice of this.

The centre’s principal eventually terminated Zarifah’s employment on April 30.

That same day, Zarifah applied to MSF for a S$500 payout under the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund on the basis that she had lost her job due to the pandemic.

The fund was part of a financial support scheme announced by the Government on March 26 in 2020 as part of the Resilience Budget to deal with the economic and social impact of Covid-19. The application period was from April 1 to 30 that year.

Among the criteria for application was that individuals needed to have been retrenched or suffered at least a 30 per cent loss of personal income due to the Covid-19 crisis after Jan 23.

DPP Choong said that at no point did the childcare centre “face financial difficulty due to Covid-19 that led to the retrenchment of any employee”.

To support her application, Zarifah had also forged a letter purportedly from her former workplace.

Days later, on May 5, she again applied to MSF for a S$2,400 payout under the Covid-19 Support Grant, which served a similar function as the Temporary Relief Fund.

She forged documents from her former workplace to support her application as well.

In both instances, she was able to receive the payouts and she knew that her reasons for applying for the payouts were invalid.

FAILED ATTEMPTS

About a month later, Zarifah found a job as a tutor at the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and her workplace was at the organisation’s West Grove Sinda Tutorials for Enhanced Performance centre, which offers an education programme for students.

While her terms of employment were for the period of July 29 to Dec 31 in 2020, DPP Choong said that she had never shown up for work during this period.

Sinda eventually nullified its contract with her on Oct 20.

Yet, even before that happened, Zarifah had on Oct 1 gone on to apply for yet another S$2,400 payout under the Covid-19 Support Grant on the basis that she had lost her job at Sinda due to the pandemic, even though this was not the case.

Similar to the first two applications, she had also forged documents from Sinda to support her attempts.

This time round, DPP Choong said that MSF approached Sinda to verify the documents and discovered that they were forged.

On Oct 4, Zarifah tried applying for a third S$2,400 payout under the grant with more forged documents from Sinda, but it was rejected by MSF as her earlier attempt was still pending verification.

Changing tactics, Zarifah tried applying for a S$1,000 payout on Nov 12 through The Courage Fund, claiming that she had contracted Covid-19 even though this was a lie.

This fund under MSF was created to provide support to lower-income households with members who contracted Covid-19 or were placed on a stay-home notice, mandatory leave of absence or home quarantine order.

To back up her scam, she forged a phone text message from a hospital that was not named in court, claiming that she had been infected with the coronavirus, and submitted various supporting documents from a hospital.

EXPLOITING CRISIS FOR PERSONAL GAIN

DPP Choong, who sought a sentence of between 12 and 16 months’ jail time, said that even in the best of times, offences against public institutions warrant a deterrent sentence.

“This need for deterrence features still more strongly in times of crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic is the most serious crisis to affect Singapore in recent years,” he added.

“As the nation came together to help their fellow men, the accused exploited the situation for personal gain.”

District Judge Lim said that he agreed. Turning to Zarifah, who was not represented by a lawyer, he said: “Every dollar that's cheated represents one less dollar that goes to someone who is actually entitled to such relief.”

Related topics

court crime Covid-19 cheating forgery MSF Covid-19 Support Grant

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