70-year-old woman behind $37.5m Keppel Club membership scam pleads guilty

Setho Oi Lin, who duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million for fake memberships, at the State Courts on Dec 4, 2017.
Setho Oi Lin, who duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million for fake memberships, at the State Courts on Dec 4, 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Over 10 years, Keppel Club employee Setho Oi Lin, also known as Setho Irene, would tell prospective buyers that there were club memberships available for transfer. 

Instead of paying the club directly, the buyers would be instructed to make payment to third parties, including Setho’s friend, and this accomplice’s family members.

A supervisor at the membership department would enter these buyers’ names into the database and issue them with membership cards.

In total, between June 1, 2004, and Aug 1, 2014, Setho duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million for fake memberships.

On Monday (Dec 4), Setho 70, pleaded guilty to 60 counts of cheating.

Her two accomplices, membership department supervisor Nah Hak Chuah and club member Ivy Cheo Soh Chin, both 67, admitted to their roles in the scam on Nov 30.

According to the charges Setho pleaded guilty to, the buyers paid between $26,500 and $41,500 each.

 

The buyers were directed to pay the purchase prices and transfer fees to third parties, including Cheo, her daughter, mother and brother-in-law. Cheo’s three family members were not club members.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi said: “These buyers or their nominees were able to enter Keppel Club and make use of the club facilities as they were issued with membership cards and their details had been entered into the system. They did not realise what went on behind the scenes at the membership department.”

Investigations revealed that Setho received at least $11 million from the cheating offences.

The court heard that besides the 60 counts of cheating, Setho has 3,121 other charges which will be considered during sentencing. They are for an additional 1,281 counts of cheating, 1,339 counts of abetting false entries into the club’s electronic membership database and 501 counts of dealing with the benefits of her criminal conduct.

DPP Hon said Setho worked at Keppel Club for nearly 48 years from 1966.

Setho, who now moves around in a wheelchair, started off as a general clerk and was promoted through the ranks. She was a personal assistant to the general manager when she committed the offences. 

The general manager oversaw membership matters.

He lodged a police report on Aug 13, 2014, stating that Setho had cheated new members of Keppel Club into buying club memberships from “phantom buyers” and directed them to pay the fees to third parties. 

As of that month, the club had 2,682 legitimate members.

Setho is out on bail of $300,000 and will be back in court on Feb 9 next year.

Nah admitted to 30 of 1,280 charges of making false entries in the club’s electronic membership database.

 
 

Cheo pleaded guilty to 20 of 303 counts of money laundering.

The cases involving Nah and Cheo have been adjourned to next month. 

Offenders convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.