SINGAPORE - The charities watchdog has barred a woman from raising funds for charity after she allegedly cheated distressed mothers of monies raised through a crowdfunding site for their children suffering from various illnesses.
Ashlee Chua Jermaine, 32, is "not a fit and proper person" to conduct fund-raising appeals, the Commissioner of Charities said in a statement on Friday (June 29).
While the Charities Commissioner has previously barred individuals from fund-raising, this is the first case involving donations raised through crowdfunding, its spokesman told The Straits Times.
Chua, who was also known as “Ian Ian” and “Ashley Lee”, is linked to a Facebook group known as “Ian Free Milk Blessing”. The group appeared to have raised funds on Give.asia, purportedly to give free formula milk to children from poor families.
The donations collected were allegedly transferred to her but when probed by the Commissioner of Charities earlier this year, Chua failed to provide the required information or any accountability on how the funds raised were used.
A spokesman for the Commissioner of Charities said it is an offence to not provide information relating to the fundraiser when asked.
Chua, an undischarged bankrupt, is already facing a criminal case.
She was charged in court on June 23 with cheating, for allegedly inducing housewife Duong Thi Hai Nhi, a Vietnamese who lives in Singapore and knew Chua as Ashley Lee, into believing that she would pay the medical bills for Madam Hai Nhi's daughter.
As a result, the 23-year-old Vietnamese transferred $2,163 to Chua's bank account, court documents show.
Madam Hai Nhi's baby daughter was born with Apert syndrome - a genetic disorder where the skull does not grow normally and the fingers are fused together - and she needed about $55,000 for surgery at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
She started a fundraising campaign in May last year and Chua got in touch with her, Madam Hai Nhi told The Straits Times earlier this year.
By July last year, Madam Hai Nhi had raised about $54,000 in donations on Give.asia and she allegedly transferred monies to Chua's account between June and September the same year to pay the hospital bills.
Chua is also alleged to have cheated at least two other people who had raised funds on the same crowdfunding site, the Charities Commissioner said.
The Straits Times understands this involves the Facebook group, but the Commissioner’s spokesman would not give more details as police investigations against Chua are ongoing.
He said: “In relation to the beneficiaries who had filed police reports against Chua, at least $60,000 was involved.”
The Commissioner, Dr Ang Hak Seng, said all fund-raisers are subject to laws, and he will not hesitate to take action if he believes an appeal is questionable.
In 2009, the Commissioner banned Mr Jasons Lim and his firm, Love Foundation, from raising funds for charity after he had received complaints that Mr Lim misrepresented the sums raised, among other concerns.
Chua has been in remand since her court appearance. If convicted, she can be jailed for up to 10 years or fined.