SINGAPORE: Concerned about the COVID-19 situation in Malaysia, a man secretly accessed his landlord's records of her traditional Chinese medicine patients' information and used their personal details to redeem face masks from Temasek Foundation.
Malaysian national and Singapore permanent resident Lee Chee Horng, 42, was sentenced to one week's jail on Thursday (Oct 28) for one count of cheating.
The court heard that Lee lived with his landlord, who operated a TCM practice and kept records of her patients in her flat.
In February this year, Temasek Foundation announced its fourth nationwide distribution of face masks.
Mask vending machines operated by the foundation were restocked with new navy-blue masks produced by Swiss hygiene company Livinguard, and each Singapore resident was entitled to one mask worth S$10 that they could redeem by keying in NRIC numbers at the vending machines.
Lee discovered that his landlord kept patient records in the storeroom of their flat, including their NRIC and FIN numbers. He illegally copied and retained the personal information belonging to five patients.
Separately, he came across a senior citizen PAssion card at a void deck in Sembawang and photographed it. He initially intended to redeem the PAssion points in the card at Giant supermarket, but was told by staff members that he could not use it when he pretended it was his mother's.
Instead, he used the NRIC number on the card, as well as the details of the five patients, and headed down to a Temasek Foundation vending machine on Mar 1.
He keyed in the personal information belonging to all six victims and redeemed six Livinguard face masks worth S$60.
He mailed four of the masks to his family in Malaysia.
The owner of the PAssion card, a 78-year-old woman, filed a police report on Mar 4, saying she tried to collect her face mask a day earlier but was told it had already been redeemed.
She told the police that she had not authorised anyone to collect the mask on her behalf, and recalled previously misplacing her senior citizen PAssion card that indicated her NRIC number.
Lee was nabbed and the remaining two masks were found in his possession, as well as a third mask that he obtained using a seventh person's information. No details were given on how he obtained this person's NRIC details.
The prosecutor called for two weeks' jail, saying that Lee had not only redeemed seven masks not belonging to him, but that he illegally obtained personal information belonging to patients of his landlord's business.
He had committed the cheating offence against a public institution, in what was a targeted scheme to provide Singapore citizens with adequate access to a key resource in the nationwide fight against the spread of the virus, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Daphne Jazreen Chee.
Defence lawyer Peter Keith Fernando asked instead for a S$1,000 fine or a day's jail, saying that his client was remorseful.
He admitted to the offences and voluntarily surrendered the three masks in his possession, said the lawyer.
He added that the reason Lee took the masks was because of "his concern about his family condition" because of the COVID-19 situation in Malaysia.
He said Lee has not been able to carry his newborn child since her birth due to restrictions in travel.
For cheating, he could have been jailed up to three years, fined, or both. As the charge was amalgamated to include multiple incidents of cheating, he could have been given up to two times the maximum punishment.