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Covid-19 relief funds: Man sentenced to 5 months in jail on 3 charges

Lawyer says offences resulted from desperation to meet financial needs and pressure from failed attempts to get a job

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Singapore – A former business development executive was sentenced to five months in jail on Thursday (Nov 19) on three cheating-related charges over Covid-19 relief funds.

Chow Jia Chuan, 29, resigned from IT firm Tabsquare in April because he disliked his job and had interpersonal issues with a colleague, according to tnp.sg on Friday (Nov 20).

However, Chow claimed he was retrenched when he applied for the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) four days before his last day at the firm.

He falsely declared having lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic to become eligible for the relief fund, which aimed to help Singapore citizens or permanent residents needing immediate assistance for basic living expenses. Those who qualified to apply should have experienced a drop in personal income of more than 30 per cent due to the crisis to receive the S$500 cash support from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

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Chow’s application was approved, and he received his cash assistance on April 21, according to straitstimes.com. The fund has since ended.

Soon after, on May 5, he applied for the Covid-19 Support Grant with the same reasons. The grant is for individuals who have lost their jobs or employees who have been placed on involuntary no-pay leave or have had their salaries reduced by at least 30 per cent for a minimum of three consecutive months.

Eligible Singaporeans and PRs can claim up to S$800 a month for three months. Applications for this grant are scheduled to close on Dec 31.

As Chow did not provide supporting documents such as a termination of contract or letter of retrenchment with his application, he was requested to do in an email by an MSF officer.

Chow then forged a retrenchment letter purportedly written by the HR business partner of Tabsquare, Mr Siddharth Narayanan. The letter was sent to the MSF officer on May 14. As per protocol, the officer contacted Mr Siddharth to confirm the details. The latter denied issuing the letter.

On May 20, Chow was informed that his application had failed. A day later, he applied once more and submitted the same letter.

On May 27, a police report was lodged. The second application was not processed, according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Jeremy Bin, as the MSF officer had already filed the initial application because of a false declaration.

Chow pleaded guilty to three cheating-related charges. Meanwhile, the S$500 cash assistance had been refunded.

DPP Bin noted that Chow had displayed “persistent criminal behaviour” as he insisted on cheating the MSF with his Support Grant application. Chow’s lawyer, Ms Nicole Huang, said  the offences resulted from desperation to meet financial needs and pressure from failed attempts to get a job.

Chow was sentenced to five months in jail, which has been deferred to Nov 30 to allow him to settle personal affairs.

It is reported that he could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail and fined for each offence. /TISG

Read related: Some people trying to cheat Temporary Relief Fund, says Desmond Lee

Some people trying to cheat Temporary Relief Fund, says Desmond Lee

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