Man jailed after forging retrenchment letters so parents can receive COVID-19 support grant
SINGAPORE: For forging retrenchment letters so that his parents could receive the COVID-19 support grant, a 43-year-old man was sentenced to three months in jail on Thursday (Sep 17).
Court documents showed that Edward Goh, who is unemployed, had forged two retrenchment documents for his parents, who are divorced and living separately.
Goh’s mother, Madam Tan Meng Lan, was retrenched from her kitchen staff position at a beef noodle stall in an ION Orchard food court on May 4.
However, the 67-year-old woman's employer only informed her of the retrenchment verbally and went on to pay her a full salary - including a Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution - for the month of May. The employer would only provide Mdm Tan with an official retrenchment letter in early June.
Learning of her retrenchment on May 5, Goh decided to help his mother apply for the support grant online, despite knowing that a retrenchment letter or other supporting documents were required to make the application.
Goh then forged a retrenchment letter, pasting a digitally cropped signature of Madam Tan’s former employer - taken from her employment letter - onto a document that he had typed out.
This was then attached to the online application form, where Goh had indicated his mother’s retrenchment date as Apr 7 and her last drawn salary as S$1,907, instead of the real figure of S$1,757.50.
“MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development) officers processing the form were able to determine that the retrenchment letter was fraudulent and did not pay out the CSG to Mdm Tan. Had the application been successful, MSF would have paid out $2,400 to Mdm Tan,” said Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Lim and Jeremy Bin in their statement of facts.
READ: COVID-19: Government will check for fraudulent temporary relief fund claims, jail sentence possible, says Shanmugam
Meanwhile, Goh's father, Mr Goh Keng Thow, had not been retrenched but had resigned from his job as a cook at a noodle stall on Mar 9.
Goh went to his father's flat on May 14 to help him apply for the COVID-19 support grant despite knowing that he did not possess the necessary supporting documents.
He forged a letter purporting to be from his father’s former employer and attached the document to the online application form, stating that the older man had been retrenched on Mar 10.
The 68-year-old Mr Goh received the first pay-out of S$800 before MSF was able to determine that the retrenchment letter was fraudulent and suspended further payment, which would have seen him receive another S$1,600.
In their submission, the prosecutors noted that Goh had suggested his parents apply for the grant despite knowing they did not possess the necessary documents. His actions were “premeditated, sophisticated, and meticulously planned to avoid detection”, they said.
“The accused sought to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Government’s response to the pandemic, to financially benefit his parents,” they said, noting the payouts were not “‘free money’ to be taken at one’s whim and fancy”.
It was thus necessary that the court send a “clear message to the public and a deterrent signal to would-be offenders” that attempts to cheat the Government in such a way would be met with severe punishment, they said.
Goh paid the full restitution of S$800 on Jul 22 and pleaded guilty to the charges on Thursday.
For committing forgery with the intent of cheating, Goh could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined or both.