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Ex-StarHub employee jailed for illegally obtaining details of customers who were later harassed by loan sharks

Ex-StarHub employee jailed for illegally obtaining details of customers who were later harassed by loan sharks

File photo of a StarHub store. (File photo: Reuters) ​​​​​​​

SINGAPORE: When a friend from secondary school asked him to help retrieve StarHub customer details, a customer care consultant working for the telecommunications company dutifully obtained addresses and other information for him.

The customers were later harassed by moneylenders who turned up at their homes demanding money.

Zhang Jiazheng, 39, who is no longer employed by StarHub, was sentenced to 10 weeks' jail on Monday (Sep 20).

He pleaded guilty to three charges of unauthorised access to a computer under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, with another six charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Zhang worked for StarHub at the time of the offences between 2015 and 2017, checking re-contract eligibility for existing customers and arranging installation appointments.

He knew his co-accused Lee Cheng Yan as they had attended the same secondary school, and would meet up occasionally for drinks and meals.

Around 2015, Lee asked Zhang to help him retrieve customer details from StarHub's system, by using the customers' mobile numbers.

Lee wanted the information as those people owed him money from drinking and gambling sessions, and he wanted to get his money back.

Despite knowing it was wrong, Zhang agreed. On a total of nine occasions, he accessed StarHub's portals to obtain the addresses of subscribers.

The customers later reported instances of harassment, saying they had received calls and text messages and that people had turned up at their homes demanding money to be returned to various people.

Zhang's lawyer said his client genuinely believed he was "just helping a friend" and regrets his actions.

He said Zhang is now unemployed, has a young child and was a frontline worker during the pandemic who put himself "in the face of danger".

Deputy Public Prosecutor Magdalene Huang said the "unsubstantiated" information that Zhang worked as a frontline worker and has supervisors who want to offer him a job after his case is settled is not a valid mitigating factor.

She noted that Zhang had initially wanted to claim trial and decided to plead guilty only after seeing the "strength" of the evidence.

The judge noted that there was a clearly a breach of trust, that later resulted in the subscribers being harassed at home.

Zhang is the latest to be sentenced in the case.

Another man, Kelvin Foo Cheek Ann, was jailed for 18 weeks in January for selling customer details he accessed from Singtel's system to Lee.

Lee faces pending charges linked to Foo and Zhang's cases and is set for a pre-trial conference in October.

He is currently serving a sentence of four years and seven months' jail for dragging a traffic police officer along the road in his Maserati. He was trying to escape after the officer had signalled to him to stop, for driving without his seat belt on.

Lee was also fined S$3,700 and banned from driving for life. The case drew attention for his defence that it was another man who looked like him behind the wheel.

He failed in his High Court appeal against his sentence and conviction this May.

Source: CNA/ll(gr)

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