Recruiter who redeemed 397 Temasek face mask kits using FIN numbers of foreign workers gets jail
SINGAPORE: Thinking that certain foreign employees were less likely to redeem free mask kits distributed by the Temasek Foundation during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recruiter used their foreigner identification numbers (FINs) to redeem 397 sets for herself.
Singaporean Chua Sah May, 48, was sentenced to seven months' jail on Monday (Jan 17) for one count of cheating.
The masks could last her for more than 66 years, the prosecutor said. While the masks were seized from her home by the police, the Temasek Foundation could not accept them for hygiene reasons.
The court heard that Chua worked as a recruiter and was outsourced to two companies - Clariant Singapore and Archroma Singapore - to handle their payroll or work pass matters.
In June and September 2020, Temasek Foundation announced that it was distributing MaskSafe DET30 reusable face mask kits containing two reusable face masks per kit to every Singapore resident without cost.
The initiative was to help the Singapore community stay safe from COVID-19 infection, and the mask kits were to be redeemed from vending machines across the island.
Each Singapore resident was to key in their NRIC or FIN at the vending machines to redeem one mask kit with two masks inside. Separately, Temasek Foundation sold the mask kits at S$8 per kit.
Chua's work allowed her access to the FINs of both companies' foreign employees, and she stored the information in her hard drive.
When Temasek Foundation distributed the mask kits, Chua wanted more for her own use and decided to use the FINs she had access to for this purpose.
Between June and September, she accessed the information she had in her hard drive and looked for FIN of foreign employees whom she thought had left Singapore or could not enter Singapore because of the pandemic.
She went to Yio Chu Kang Community Club on 397 occasions and keyed in the FINs of these employees to redeem mask kits. She took a total of 397 mask kits, worth S$3,176, in this manner.
A sales manager for Clariant South East Asia filed a police report on Oct 3, 2020, saying he tried to retrieve his mask kit but could not as the system stated he had already done so.
Chua was caught on closed-circuit television footage redeeming three Temasek mask kits from a vending machine on Sep 27.
She was arrested and surrendered 454 mask kits that were in her home to the police.
"However, for hygiene reasons the Temasek Foundation is unable to accept the mask kits," said the prosecutor.
He asked for at least seven months' jail for Chua, saying she had exploited "an important initiative by the Temasek Foundation to provide face masks to Singapore residents for free", with the aim of reducing the spread of COVID-19.
"It was exactly with this aim in mind that Temasek Foundation had automated the distribution process - by distributing face mask kits via its vending machines, Temasek Foundation was able to provide a safe, convenient and minimal contact distribution and collection process," he said.
He added that the Temasek Foundation estimated that a pair of the face masks may last for up to two months.
"Effectively, the accused took masks that could last her a total of more than 66 years," said the prosecutor.
"Seen in this light, the accused's offence was thus one of pure greed and disregard for the needs of others in the community."
However, he acknowledged that Chua had pleaded guilty early and voluntarily surrendered the masks in her possession, even if the Foundation did not accept them.
For cheating, she could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.
The victims were later allowed to redeem their masks via Temasek Foundation’s service ambassadors.