SINGAPORE: Two men were charged in court on Wednesday (Jul 1) with forging retrenchment letters to obtain COVID-19 support grants, with one man accused of lying that he had lost his job due to the pandemic.
Chow Jia Chuan, 29, was given one count of cheating, four counts of attempted cheating and one count of forgery, while 43-year-old Edward Goh was charged with two counts of forgery.
Chow allegedly declared in a Temporary Relief Fund application on Apr 20 that he had lost his job due to COVID-19, even though this was false.
He successfully got the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to give him S$500, charge sheets state.
Chow attempted to cheat MSF again in the following month, and is accused of declaring in a COVID-19 support grant application on May 5 that he had lost his job due to the pandemic.
He tried to get MSF to approve his application and deliver a monthly cash grant of S$800 for three months to him, but did not succeed, charge sheets state.
Chow is accused of trying again a week later, telling MSF employee Samantha Choy that he had lost his job due to COVID-19 on May 13. He knew this was false, but tried to get MSF to deliver a cash grant of S$800 for three months, court documents said.
On May 14, he allegedly forged a retrenchment letter in order to cheat MSF into disbursing the COVID-19 support grant to him, and told Ms Choy again that he had lost his job from the pandemic.
Chow is accused of trying once more on May 21, by declaring in a COVID-19 support grant application that he had lost his employment due to the pandemic, hoping to get a monthly grant of S$800 for three months.
Chow will return to court on Jul 29.
In an unrelated case, Goh is accused of forging a retrenchment letter from Lim Gim Tee of Scotts Hwa Heng Beef Noodles on May 5.
He did so to cheat MSF into disbursing the COVID-19 support grant to a Tan Meng Lan, charge sheets state. The police said in a statement that he knew this other person.
READ: COVID-19: Government will check for fraudulent temporary relief fund claims, jail sentence possible, says Shanmugam
Goh was given a second count of forgery - for fabricating a retrenchment memorandum from Ee Hui Food Catering on May 14, intending to cheat MSF into disbursing the COVID-19 support grant to an individual named Goh Keng Thow.
Edward Goh intends to plead guilty and will return to court to do so on Jul 29.
If convicted of forgery, he can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
The penalty for cheating is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine, and attempts to cheat draw the same punishments.
Both the Temporary Relief Fund and COVID-19 support grant were launched to provide financial support to Singaporeans affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, and are managed by MSF.
In response to CNA's queries, MSF said on Thursday its Social Service Office detected the fraudulent documents for COVID-19 support grant (CSG) applications through checks with the applicants’ employers.
"Verification of CSG application documents is part of our usual process."
The ministry then made police reports.
"MSF takes any attempt to cheat and commit fraud seriously, as these constitute an abuse of public funds," it added.
The police said in a statement that they "take a serious view of dishonest conduct pertaining to applications for Government grants", and that offenders will be dealt with severely.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated following a correction issued by the police. The original charge sheet contained an incorrect detail regarding who one of the accused had intended to channel COVID-19 support grant funds to.