Ex-NTUC Club executive jailed over $238,500 scam

Elaborate plot saw companies handing over money for fake promotional events

An executive at NTUC Club masterminded a $238,500 scam featuring several accomplices and an elaborate web of deceit.

Chia Kian Gee was yesterday sentenced to jail for two years and one month over the plot, which involved tricking companies into handing over money for fake promotional events.

District Judge Marvin Bay told the 49-year-old: "You fully thought through your plans for deception by taking measures to cover your tracks.

"And you have enlisted willing accomplices to carry out your plans."

The court heard Chia was responsible for coming up with creative promotions at NTUC Club, which is part of the National Trades Union Congress and manages clubhouses and resorts across Singapore.

This sometimes involved asking firms to contribute money towards events run by the club, which they could then use to market themselves.

Chia used his position to cheat four liquor and tobacco suppliers into handing over funds for non-existent events, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Lim.

He then tried to conceal the trail by depositing the cheques in the bank account of a company called Bridgewerkz, which was run by a friend of his brother-in-law.

Once the cheques had cleared, he transferred the money to another alleged accomplice, holiday firm sales executive Ang Geok Kim.

Ang - who took a cut - then helped to hide the illicit gains by converting the cash into travel vouchers or using other methods, the court heard.

DPP Lim said the way Chia made use of his position to get others to help him was an aggravating factor.

She pointed out that the scam went on for three years - between 2006 and 2009 - and involved many people. It relied on the fact that the suppliers did not bother to check where their money was going. "The people involved in the scam were basically scratching each other's backs," said DPP Lim.

"The accused is the mastermind of this whole ploy. It is clear that he took a lead in instigating these persons to help him with the offences... which were committed out of greed."

Chia, who is no longer working for NTUC Club, pleaded guilty to three charges of abetting accomplices to commit criminal breach of trust, three of using false documents to mislead, and one of cheating. Fourteen other charges were taken into consideration by the judge during his sentencing.

Yesterday, the former executive was ordered to pay $66,000 in compensation, which was the amount he claimed to have pocketed.

He could have been sent to prison for up to 15 years and fined on each count of the criminal breach of trust charge. Cheating carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a fine. For each charge of using false documents, Chia could have been jailed for up to five years, fined $100,000 or both. Ang has been charged but not dealt with yet.

elena@sph.com.sg