He was desperate for high-paying jobs though his only academic qualification is the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
But over four years, 49-year-old Chin Ming Lik (above) took a long line of employers for a ride as he daringly used fake qualifications to get civil engineering jobs at 38 companies.
To avoid being caught, he came up with a sneaky plan to only work at each company for short periods of time between 2013 and 2017.
Among the documents he forged were a National University of Singapore (NUS) “first-class engineering” degree scroll, certificates from the Ministry of Manpower and Singapore Polytechnic, and a GCE A-level certificate.
But Chin’s academic forgery game stopped dead on its tracks on Monday when he was sentenced to two years and 11 months’ jail, and fined S$1,600 for his offences.
He pleaded guilty to eight charges including forgery, making a false statutory declaration and theft. Another 13 charges, including stealing diapers from NTUC FairPrice, were taken into consideration.
During police investigations, Chin said that he decided to forge the certificates because he had heard that project managers in civil engineering drew good salaries and he wanted to obtain such jobs.
Sometime around January 2014, he came across a copy of a Building Construction Supervisors Safety Course Certificate in an office he worked at. He photocopied the certificate, which was issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), overlaying a slip of paper with his own name over it so that it appeared to have his name on it.
Besides academic degrees from tertiary institutions, he also fabricated several documents for courses accredited by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), including a lifting supervisor safety course, a risk management course and a construction safety course.
TRICKERY WITH DEGREES
In his resume, Chin lied that he had 16 years of experience and had worked for various construction companies. As a result of his trickery, he was hired by various building and construction firms and given jobs with monthly salaries of between S$3,500 and S$9,000.
To avoid suspicion, Chin worked at each company for only short periods of time before moving on, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei.
DPP Tan said: “He had heard that project managers in civil engineering drew good salaries and decided to forge the relevant certifications in order to obtain jobs in the field.”
But on December 2016, an assistant manager at NUS lodged a police report stating that an NUS degree scroll with Chin’s name had been sent to the university for verification. But that it did not match any of the records in NUS’ database.
Chin also made a statutory declaration on Sept 9, 2015, to excuse his inability to provide original copies of the forged certificates submitted during job applications.
It stated that he had misplaced 10 original certificates when he moved house, a statement he knew to be false, said DPP Tan.
STOLE DIAPERS AT SUPERMARKET
Chin was then placed on a stop list for investigation purposes. The law finally caught up with him when Chin was stopped and arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint in April 2017 for not having a valid driving licence.
Investigations found that he had been disqualified from driving since 1992 and had driven four different cars without a licence for a decade.
A few months after this, he stole two packs of diapers and two 10kg bags of rice from an NTUC FairPrice supermarket in Bedok North Street 1. He has made full restitution of S$133.40.
Chin’s defence lawyers Ravinderpal Singh and James Ow Yong said that Chin, a father of two, had forged the certificates “out of desperation” for a better paying job as his family depended on him heavily for finances.
At the time of the offences, Chin’s two-year-old son suffered from asthma and needed to be taken to the hospital whenever he had difficulties breathing. His other son, who is a year older, is suspected to suffer from Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, while Chin’s younger brother is physically disabled.
Chin himself is being treated at the Institute of Mental Health and has been diagnosed with depression, said the lawyers. They asked the court to grant Chin “a final chance to change” and to temper justice with mercy.
In sentencing, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said Chin had been previously sentenced to corrective training for other offences, but there had been “no rehabilitative effect”. Therefore, he had to issue a sentence that serves as a deterrence.
Defence lawyer James Ow Yong said in mitigation that Chin was “deeply remorseful for his actions”. He added that Chin is the sole breadwinner in his family.