Woman jailed 16 months for one of the largest work permit scams MOM has investigated

Celeste Provido Apostol was jailed for 16 months for helping foreigners stay and work in Singapore fraudulent FDW permits.
Celeste Provido Apostol was jailed for 16 months for helping foreigners stay and work in Singapore fraudulent FDW permits. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A Filipino woman who helped close to 30 foreigners stay and work in Singapore on foreign domestic worker (FDW) permits fraudulently was sentenced to 16 months in jail on Thursday (Jan 7).

Celeste Provido Apostol, 36, conspired with bogus "employers" to make false declarations in work pass applications, and to obtain FDW permits for the foreigners.

The accused worked with recruiters who sourced for foreigners in need of work permits to stay in Singapore, and locals who were willing to provide their particulars as "employers".

She then matched the foreigners with these bogus "employers" and submitted work pass applications based on their particulars to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) between June 2009 and March 2013.

In total, the accused and the recruiters found 27 "maids" and 21 "employers".

The accused collected fees of between $3,500 and $4,000 from each foreign worker for the work permit.

The foreigners worked as performing artists, freelance cleaners, manicurists, or in other odd jobs in Singapore.

Apostol was charged in court on Jan 20 with 33 charges - 32 counts of false declaration offences and one count for carrying out the activities of an employment agency without obtaining a licence.

She pleaded guilty to 16 charges on Oct 15, with the remaining 17 charges taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing. She was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment.

This is one of the largest scams of this nature that has been investigated, the Ministry said in a statement.

Mr Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division said: "This is a serious case of deceit, and a blatant disregard for the work pass framework. We will not tolerate fraud, and will take firm action against those who wilfully deceive the Ministry."

The foreign workers involved in the scam have been prosecuted and convicted in court, MOM said. They will be sent home and permanently barred from working in Singapore.

Culpable "employers" will be barred from hiring any foreign worker.

Since 2014, 78 individuals have been convicted of furnishing false information to MOM to obtain work passes.

If convicted, offenders can be fined up to $20,000, with possible imprisonment of up to two years.