Man jailed for $2.2m fake degree scam

Ben Yap Chee Mun, seen here in a 2013 photo, pleaded guilty on Sept 7 to 30 charges of cheating.
Ben Yap Chee Mun, seen here in a 2013 photo, pleaded guilty on Sept 7 to 30 charges of cheating.

A business school owner, who cheated hundreds of students of almost $2.2 million in a fake degree scam, was yesterday sentenced to 51/2 years in jail.

Ben Yap Chee Mun, 45, who owns Brookes Business School, pleaded guilty on Sept 7 to 30 charges of cheating, while another 282 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Yap trained employees to sell various degree programmes purportedly offered by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and one Brookes University.

However, Brookes Business School was not authorised to offer RMIT programmes; and Brookes University was, in fact, a sham institution set up by Yap.

The employees, who were called directors, were given commissions of between 40 and 60 per cent of the course fees for each student recruited. Most students paid between $10,000 and $20,000 each.

In the scam, which ran from 2004 to 2008, potential students were told that Brookes Business School was certified by CaseTrust and the Ministry of Education. Yap even set up a company called Global Accreditation Commission in Britain to accredit Brookes University.

His ruse began to unravel in December 2008, when Mr Clarence Lim, his business partner at Brookes Business School, lodged a police report that someone representing former students was trying to extort money from the school.

The police report stated that several Brookes Business School students had complained that their RMIT degrees were not recognised by the Australian university. At about the same time, information regarding the unrecognised degrees was spreading among the students and former students at the school, leading to more police reports.

Subsequent investigations uncovered Yap's fake degree scams, as well as another "cashback scheme" scam that cheated three banks into disbursing student loans.

The scam saw Brookes Business School recruiting students to apply for study loans based on inflated course fees. The excess sums were then shared between the school, students and others who acted as brokers for the scheme.

Yap was sentenced to two years and 10 months in jail in March last year after being convicted of 13 charges related to the "cashback scheme" scam.

Another 120 charges related to the scam were taken into consideration for this current sentence.

The 5 1/2 year sentence will run concurrently with last year's sentence, which Yap is currently serving.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Man jailed for $2.2m fake degree scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe