Car workshop owner given 40 months' jail for role in motor insurance fraud syndicate

Su Chia Ern pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating.
Su Chia Ern pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A 45-year-old man who was one of three masterminds behind a motor insurance fraud syndicate was on Friday (Feb 19) given 40 months' jail.

The syndicate had submitted false insurance claims worth $380,259 in relation to nine staged traffic accidents.

Su Chia Ern, who owned the now-defunct car workshop Concept Services Enterprise, pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating. He admitted to 25 other counts, which were taken into consideration during sentencing.

A district court heard that between July 2008 and June 2009, Su submitted, or abetted in the submission of the false insurance claims.

Three insurance companies were duped by the syndicate comprising 20 people and paid out $175,663.

The two other masterminds in the scam were Teo Kok Hwee, a managing director for a recruitment services company, and Pan Weida Pepin, a car dealer.

Su, Teo and Pan would recruit car owners and drivers to make false reports stating they had been in traffic accidents, when they had not.

The trio would be the ones to intentionally create the accidents, but get these people to submit property damage and personal injury insurance claims in their names.

To support these claims, Su would take photos of the damaged vehicles. Sometimes, he would even remove parts of a vehicle to make it look like it had been involved in a genuine accident.

On one occasion, in 2009, Su found out that the husband of his girlfriend's sister, Godfrey Liew Kok Hon, 41, was in financial difficulty. Su told him he could earn money by falsely making an insurance claim.

Liew agreed to leave his car at Su's workshop in Sin Ming Industrial Estate. The car was subsequently damaged to make it appear like it was involved in an accident.

Liew also got his wife, You Baolan, involved as phantom passenger in the fake accident, so that she too could make a false insurance claim.

He later obtained a medical report and certificate by lying to the doctor that he had stiffness in the wrist and lower back. His wife allegedly also got diagnosed with whiplash injury and purportedly submitted an injury claim for $21,794, but this was not paid out as the insurance company suspected fraud.

The prosecution asked for 42 months' jail for Su, noting that syndicated motor insurance fraud cases involve multiple layers of deception, and cause premiums for all motor insurance policyholders to increase.

In 2013, the General Insurance Association of Singapore said that it conservatively estimated one-fifth of all claims to be inflated or fraudulent, and such claims cost about $140 million a year.

Su is out on $200,000 bail, pending an appeal against the sentence. He could have been jailed for 10 years and fined on each cheating charge.

Teo was jailed for 24 months in 2015,while Pan's case is pending. Liew was jailed for six months. You's case is also still pending.

In all, 15 people in the syndicate, including Su, have been convicted.