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Woman jailed for forging retrenchment letter to apply for COVID-19 Support Grant

Woman jailed for forging retrenchment letter to apply for COVID-19 Support Grant

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A woman was on Monday (Aug 29) jailed for five weeks for forging a retrenchment letter to apply for the COVID-19 Support Grant.

Goh Chyi Chen, 42, pleaded guilty to one charge of forgery. Another charge of attempting to cheat the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) was considered for sentencing.

The court heard that Goh worked as a senior retail executive with Rigel Telecom before the offences. She was fired in May 2020 due to unsatisfactory work performance.

The reasons for Goh's retrenchment were stated in a letter issued by Rigel Telecom, and her retrenchment was not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court was told.

The COVID-19 Support Grant, administered by MSF, provided financial assistance to Singaporeans affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.

For those who lost their job or were on involuntary no-pay leave for at least three consecutive months, the grant provided a monthly cash grant of up to S$800 for three months. The cash support quantum was based on the last-drawn monthly salary, capped at S$800.

On Oct 1, 2020, Goh submitted an online application for the COVID-19 Support Grant that included a forged retrenchment letter.

She used word processing software to amend the contents of the letter, deleting all the reasons given for her retrenchment and instead stating that it was due to COVID-19.

On Oct 12, 2020, an MSF officer contacted the company to verify the letter's contents and learnt that the company did not issue the letter.

When the officer contacted Goh over the phone, she continued to claim that she was retrenched due to the pandemic. MSF eventually rejected Goh's application.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew argued that Goh's actions put public funds in peril, and pointed out that she persisted in her lie when questioned by an MSF officer.

He also said that Goh had related prior convictions for cheating, forgery and criminal breach of trust, although these took place in 2004 and were relatively dated.

Defence lawyer Anand Nalachandran, who requested not more than a week's jail for his client, asked the court to consider the "desperate situation" Goh was in around the time she offended.

He highlighted that after the offences, Goh was diagnosed with depression by the Institute of Mental Health. Although there was no contributory link to Goh's offences, the diagnosis showed she was facing several stressors in her life that led to her mistake, said the lawyer.

Mr Nalachandran also argued that Goh's application was rejected by MSF, and no public funds were disbursed to her.

The penalty for forgery is up to four years' jail, a fine or both.

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Source: CNA/dv(mi)


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