Centre: Volunteer who cheated elderly man can return after jail term

The volunteer from a senior activity centre who cheated an elderly man of his life savings will be allowed to go back and help out at the centre after he serves his jail term. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
The volunteer from a senior activity centre who cheated an elderly man of his life savings will be allowed to go back and help out at the centre after he serves his jail term. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

The volunteer from a senior activity centre who cheated an elderly man of his life savings will be allowed to go back and help out at the centre after he serves his jail term.

"We will welcome him back because if he wishes to turn over a new leaf, we should give him the opportunity to," said Mr Raja Mohan, chief programme officer of Sunlove Abode for Intellectually Infirmed, which runs the centre.

Gay Chin Yin's lawyers had said on Friday that he intends to continue volunteering at the centre after serving his sentence.

Said Mr Mohan: "We believe the other elderly people will forgive him and not shun him, but we will counsel him, keep an eye on him and be more careful in assigning him duties."

The elderly at the centre have also been reminded by staff to be vigilant about their belongings and not ask strangers for favours.

Mr Mohan said Gay was not a registered volunteer with the centre, but he helped out at its bigger events occasionally.

He also helped clean Mr Sai Bee Cheng's flat on an ad hoc basis.

"He is just one of the residents in the neighbourhood who drop by to have coffee, mingle and help one another," said Mr Mohan.

"We can't stop them from coming as the space is kept open for a kampung spirit to develop," he added.

He said the centre does not screen its volunteers for criminal records or medical history because it gets 200 to 300 volunteers a year, from students to working professionals.

However, its staff knew of Gay's mental illness because residents of the area can choose to register and declare their illness, in case they need the centre's help in future.

"Quite a number of the elderly have some mental issues and they don't create trouble, so that point wasn't a red flag for us," said Mr Mohan.

Gay's lawyers had said that their client, who has a history of schizophrenia, could not afford treatment for his condition for almost a year before he was remanded.

Mr Michael Wong, 56, one of the retirees who hang out at the centre, said Gay showed signs of financial strain.

He had asked them for money to buy food or cigarettes a few times.

"Quite a number of people in the neighbourhood also come by and offer to help the elderly buy groceries.

"Sometimes the helpers don't return the change, so I always tell the elderly to be careful and not give them big notes," said Mr Wong.

He remembered Gay telling him that there is a fair bit of money in Mr Sai's account after Gay was enlisted to make the withdrawal.

But Mr Wong did not suspect anything amiss.

Mr Sai's daughter, Ms Sai Lee Yong, was concerned when she heard that the man who conned her father of his savings could be returning to the centre.

"These are retirement funds or coffin money that we are talking about," she said.

Janice Tai

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